The last Thursday of November (it wasn’t changed to the 3rd Thursday until around 1939) was one met with welcomed anticipation and enthusiasm for all who knew Anna Mikkelsen, and for Anna herself. Known for blocks for being an exceptional cook and baker, as well as having a generous and hospitable manner, Thanksgiving with the Mikkelsen’s always meant amazing fare, wonderful company, and a festive ambiance merging her Danish-American traditions. She would wake in the early morning to pack the hearth in her kitchen with wood to get a fire going. She then would push an iron spit through her turkey, fix it with skewers and baste it with butter. While the turkey began to cook, the delicious aroma permeating the household, she’d gather up stewed apples for a traditional American favorite called Marlborough Pudding. It was a new recipe she had added to her Danish-laden repertoire after her dear friend Margrethe gifted her with her first American cookbook.
The love she had for preparing all of her Thanksgiving Day foods showed in the beautiful feast she displayed for all who attended. Perhaps even more gratifying to her was the appreciation, adoration and pleasure her guests expressed after the delicious meal was over!
Giving thanks and celebrations of thanksgiving are not new concepts. Since ancient times and throughout history cultures have performed various ceremonies to give thanks for successful crop harvests, which simply allowed life to be sustained. Today, in addition to the American Thanksgiving, there are many such festivals around the world, which still celebrate the harvest season.
Historically, autumn has always been recognized as the time of year to be thankful for the bounties bestowed on us, both literally and figuratively. Before the creation of such significant inventions such as refrigeration, cars, airplanes and dishwashers, which have given us a level of convenience, changed our familial and social structures, and provided us with a different type of lifestyle, people gave thanks, literally, for the food they had. During the first Thanksgiving in America, back nearly 400 years ago, our ancestors were thankful that they were able to withstand the elements and survive another day on the food they had. Although today we may take for granted many of the things modern technology has granted us, once a year we all are able to come together around a table and give thanks in one way or another.
If you are interested in reading some old archived Thanksgiving articles, take a look at this one from 1900 in The Skandinaven. In addition, part of an editorial from The Danish Times on November, 26, 1921 resonated with me. It reads:
“In 1623, another day of feasting and thanksgiving was held. Every year after that a day was set aside as Thanksgiving Day, until now, in our time, the last Thursday of November is set aside as a national holiday. On this day it is well to think of the work and sacrifices of those brave souls who have gone before us, and to resolve to keep it intact for all days to come…”
Here’s wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!