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Abundant Art about Abundance: Thanksgiving Art

The first American Thanksgiving celebration is commonly placed at 1621 in Plymouth England.

Artists traditionally painted fanciful depictions of native Americans in showy feather headdresses being served by settlers in starched dresses. Everyone was friendly and nice to everyone else. The dog did not grab any food.

Happy to be Friends.

J.L.G Ferris - The First Thanksgiving 1621

We think of Thanksgiving, at least I do, as being quinessentially American, but it’s not. It’s celebrated in many different countries, including Canada, Grenada, Liberia and Australia.

Perhaps Norman Rockwell had something to do with our thinking it’s solely in the USA.

The Happy American Thanksgiving Dinner

Norman Rockwell - Freedom From Want

His pictures of sublimely happy American family gatherings first captured and then perhaps congealed the tone for the quintessential family day. It’s the busiest travel day of the year in the USA.

Abundant Food

The cornucopia of autumn fruits and vegetables reflects the harvest festival, of which our Thanksgiving Day is a fairly recent incarnation. Harvest festivals were common celebrations, e.g., in Celtic times, apparently in gratitude for having enough harvest to face the winter without fear of starving to death

I’m not sure how the turkey became iconic. Ben Franklin had been so impressed by them, a native North American fowl, that he wanted turkeys to be the national bird instead of the eagle. Wild turkeys can fly, something domesticated turkeys cannot. And they can run up to 20 MPH

Turkey for Dinner

Fat, Friendly Icon

But we don’t think of turkeys in flight or outrunning bears and lions.

They’re iconic. They’re depicted as fat and friendly.

This leads to “talking turkey."

An account of the tale comes from an 1837 article in the Niles’ Weekly Register:

“An Indian and a white man went a shooting in partnership and a wild turkey and a crow were all the results of the day's toil. The white man, in the usual style of making a bargain with the Indian proposed a division of the spoils in this way: "Now Wampum, you may have your choice: you take the crow, and I'll tale the turkey; or, if you'd rather, I'll take the turkey and you take the crow." Wampum reflected a moment on the generous alternative thus offered, and replied - "Ugh! You no talk turkey to me a bit."

Happy Thanksgiving!

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