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Thanksgiving

To most of us, Thanksgiving is a day to observe time-honored traditions such as attending the annual high school football game, volunteering a few hours in the morning, watching parades, or simply recognizing and giving thanks for all we have. Where will you be this Thanksgiving? At home or away? With family or with friends? One thing is certain: this holiday endures as an inspiration to many.

Thanksgiving began in 1621 when, during a three-day Thanksgiving feast, the Pilgrims, alongside the Indians, celebrated their safe journey to the New World and their first successful harvest, dining on fish and shellfish, wild fowl, venison, berries, fruit, vegetables, and grains. The colonists also celebrated Thanksgiving, but often as a religious observance where fasting was the order of the day. Although not celebrated regularly, Thanksgivings were eventually held to rejoice a plentiful harvest resulting from good weather, celebrate a military victory, and even recognize the adoption of a state constitution.

Abraham Lincoln, in the throes of the Civil War, proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863 to be a national day of Thanksgiving to give thanks for “fruitful fields” and “healthful skies” while simultaneously asking for peace, harmony, and tranquility. From this point forward, the United States has observed Thanksgiving every year. In the late 1800s, chickens and turkeys were used as targets in shooting matches held on Thanksgiving morning. High school football rivalries also took root in this time period and in the 1890s professional football also became a Thanksgiving Day staple. In 1941 President Roosevelt signed a bill into law declaring Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday in November. In 1989, the Presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey became permanent.

Except for some of the earliest Thanksgiving holidays, food has always been the common, and very important, denominator in Thanksgiving Day celebrations. Tradition on Thanksgiving has the cook in the kitchen all day preparing roast turkey, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, green bean casserole, and for dessert, the customary pumpkin pie. Modern Thanksgiving menus serve up variations on the same theme: turkey from the fryer, mushroom stuffing, green beans amandine, and au-gratin potatoes. And, with the abundance of pumpkins and their elevated culinary status this time of year, the delicious new twist on the perennial dessert standby is now pumpkin cheesecake.

Many people travel over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit family and friends. Guests always want to help in the preparations of the big meal, but gracious hosts usually shoo everyone out of the kitchen while they pull the feast together. A great way for those who insist on helping is to send a delivery gift of pumpkin cheesecake in advance of Thanksgiving Day. A cheesecake delivery right to the door will have the cook breathing a sigh of relief knowing that dessert is done and that there is one less dish to prepare. Pumpkin cheesecake will certainly make it a meal that will long be remembered as the one that broke with tradition. Soon, pumpkin cheesecake, with its delicious spiciness and crunchy crust, will become everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert, perhaps even prompting the start of a new tradition. Not to mention the fact that you will have just given everyone another reason to be thankful.