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The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States

Elizabeth Pleck
Journal of Social History
Vol. 32, No. 4 (Summer, 1999), pp. 773-789
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3789891
Page Count: 17
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The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States
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Abstract

The paper accounts for the emergence and changes in the definition of Thanksgiving in the U.S. as a "domestic occasion." A domestic occasion is defined as a family gathering held in the home which paid homage to the ideal of a privitized, affectionate and sentimental family. Instead of being "invented" once in the early nineteenth century, by women's magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale and Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving has been reinvented several times subsequently, with changes in both form and meaning. These reinventions included defining the holiday as a holiday of national inclusion, as a day for department store parades and for listening to or watching a football game. At the same time, by the 1940s, one significant element of Thanksgiving, that of carnivalesque misrule, disappeared. The reinventions of Thanksgiving show the significance of American nationalism, the desire of (many) immigrants to adopt the national culture, but in a hyphenated form, the significance of children as agents of change, and the role of popular entertainment in enhancing modern festivity and in adding a masculine element of listening to or watching a football game to a highly feminine occasion.

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