Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving past and present

The first official observance of Thanksgiving after the creation of Montana Territory came in 1865. Although President Lincoln had established the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, following Lincoln’s assassination, President Johnson chose December 7th as the day of official observance. Residents of the mining camps paused in their relentless search for golden treasure and gave thanks for their good luck and for the end of the Civil War. In Virginia City, businesses closed. There were private celebrations and culinary preparations in many homes and restaurants. The Montana Post reported that sleighs were gliding merrily around town all day, men hobnobbed at the bars, and there was a singing party in the governor’s office. But in many a lonely cabin and isolated homestead, Thanksgiving was a time for  memories of other days, loved ones far away, and  serious reflection. The next year, 1866, at Last Chance, celebrations were more community oriented.  Young ladies put on their pretties and attended the Firemen’s Ball on Thanksgiving Eve at the Young America Hall. Markets were well supplied for Thanksgiving Day feasts. Shoppers could choose elk, deer, bear, sage hens, grouse and pheasant. There was no mention of turkeys, however, at Thanksgiving tables on that particular holiday. In Virginia City, the day was unremarkable. There were no church services, no suspension of labor, and no formal public thanks. The Montana Post noted, “When the population of Montana becomes stable, another order will prevail, and Thanksgiving will be greeted with more ceremony.” But in private, families gathered at their tables as earnestly and faithfully as if they lived in the States.

Some things haven't changed, have they? Are you planning any new Thanksgiving traditions this year? I am. I'm cooking a goose in addition to the usual turkey.

No comments:

Post a Comment