We don’t know about you, but we love Thanksgiving. Of all the annual holidays, it’s by far the most quintessentially American, with a long and rich history that now forms the bedrock of our national identity. As the world’s last authentic American jukebox manufacturer, we know a thing or two about history and national identity here at Rock Ola! And while a few other countries across the globe have their own interpretations or versions of the holiday, we think you’ll agree there’s nothing quite like a true American Thanksgiving feast.
A short history of Thanksgiving
It’s all in the name. Thanksgiving is, at its heart, a day of being thankful - for food, for family, and for life. Historically, it’s been a blessing of the harvest, when people give thanks for the crops and yields of the land. The Thanksgiving feast that we know and love today is based on a 1621 harvest feast that was shared between English pilgrims from Plymouth, and the native Wampanoag people. The feast spanned for three full days, and by all accounts it was quite the party, including 50 pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians.
It’s a tale with all the right ingredients - peace, friendship and cheerful indulgence - so it’s no surprise that it captured the hearts of Americans everywhere, leading it to become deeply ingrained in our national consciousness. A few centuries later, Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26th. In 1942, Franklin D Roosevelt issued a proclamation of his own, which officially designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Now, the day of Thanksgiving holds a particularly treasured significance for millions of people across the United States, and continues to be regarded here and everywhere else in the world as a holiday that is beautifully, and uniquely, American.
A few bits of Thanksgiving trivia to impress your family
- The term ‘Black Friday’ first appeared in a 1951 journal. The author was describing the tendency of countless Americans to call in sick on the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving, so they could enjoy a four-day weekend. And let’s be honest, who can blame them?
- Writer Sarah Josepha Hale was instrumental in convincing President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, although she had to write him letters for 17 straight years to do it. In recognition of her role, today she’s known not just as the writer of Mary Had A Little Lamb, but also by the enviable title of the Mother of Thanksgiving.
- US presidents have traditionally been presented with a live turkey for their own Thanksgiving meal. In recent decades, presidents began their own miniature tradition of giving the turkey a presidential pardon. John F Kennedy is generally recognised as the first to officially pardon his turkey, and in 1989 George H.W. Bush formalized the tradition, which continues all the way up to the present day.
- There’s a persistent myth that the turkey very nearly became our national bird, instead of the bald eagle. It stems from a letter by Benjamin Franklin to his daughter, in which there’s no denying he expresses some particularly strong feelings about fowl. He calls the bald eagle a bird of "bad moral character”, citing the eagle’s scavenging tendency. By contrast, he describes the turkey as “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America.” But he does also go on to describe it as “a little vain and silly”, and there’s no credible evidence to suggest it was ever in the running for becoming our national emblem.
- Thanksgiving is indirectly responsible for the creation of TV dinners. Back in 1953, a Swanson employee accidentally over-ordered a massive shipment of Thanksgiving turkeys. 260 tons of them, actually. (And come on, which of us hasn’t been there?) Enterprising salesman Gerry Thomas, inspired by prepared airplane meals, hit upon the bright idea of using up the excess edible fowl by putting it into aluminum trays and serving them to busy households. 10 million were sold within the year, and a whole new industry was born.
Our top 10 classic tunes for your Thanksgiving feast
We weren’t short of choices here at Rock-Ola, but after plenty of discussion, here are our 10 favourite suggestions for your Thanksgiving playlist - perfect for making merry from your Rock-Ola jukebox! We’ve included something for everyone - there are big band tunes, some soulful, some upbeat, and all great for getting you into the seasonal spirit.
- Thanksgiving Prayer by Johnny Cash
- Be Thankful For What You Got by William DeVaughn
- I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For
- We are Family by Sister Sledge
- Turkey Chase by Bob Dylan
- Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter
- All That Meat and No Potatoes by Fats Waller
- Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
- Early Autumn by Ella Fitzgerald
- American Pie by Don McLeon
Of course, for us here at Rock-Ola, this isn’t the only important celebration of the month - there’s also National Jukebox Day, the day before Thanksgiving! So if you’re thinking about enjoying both these American staples this year, we’ve got plenty for you to choose from amongst our range. As the last authentic American jukebox manufacturer in the world, we’ve created multiple jukebox in the style of true American icons, including our Harley Davidson Bubbler CD jukebox! Why not take a look around, and see what treasures you can find?