After researching what Thanksgiving traditions were like back in the 40's, I became curious as to whether or not there might have been some differences in those same traditions going into the 1950's. Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 50's varied slightly then the decade prior, especially since the politics and events of the world took different turns and created new reasons for Americans to be thankful. The Korean War began, color Television was introduced, Sputnik launched the space age, and Fidel Castro came into extreme power as did the Jell-O mold.
Any who, the 50's saw some continental changes regarding the holiday as well. Coming off of the actual date changing madness that occurred in the 40's, Texas was the last state to change its law, observing the last-Thursday Thanksgiving for the final time in 1956.
Interestingly enough, little things regarding the dinner traditions took a varying turn in this decade too starting with the origins of the green bean casserole being founded in 1955 by Campbell Soup. The official reason they conjured up this idea was to make up new recipes for their annual Campbell's cookbook but the actual reason was most likely because they realized that no one was buying Cream of Mushroom soup without a good reason, so they got creative and it worked.
Thanksgiving meals in the '50s still included turkey as the main dish, but on occasion ham was also present whereas today I see a lot of people having both or just ham alone. Turkeys would get stuffed with a herb stuffing and if ham was presented as the main dish it would be glazed and baked in the oven. Both would be sliced before the meal and placed on platters or the man of the house would carve the meat at the table just before dinner was served.
Interestingly enough, many families used seafood as a first or second course by serving cream of oyster soup or clam chowder then moving on to the main course of turkey madness. Side dishes included celery hearts, gravy, sweat potatoes, peas, carrots, boiled onions, green beans, squash and potatoes, usually served mashed or with marshmallow on top. Bread would also be included as a side dish, either with baked rolls or bread sticks. Cranberry sauce, candies, and nuts were often placed on the table as well.
Turkey, ham, beans, and cherry pie, oh my!
There were usually at least two to three kinds of pie served at the end of the Thanksgiving meal. The choices of pie usually included apple, pumpkin, and mincemeat with ice cream served on the side as well. Today you see an array of dessert choices that doesn't just include pies but cobblers, cakes, pastries, and cookies as well.
Another observation I've made is that in the 50's people actually wore their best outfits for dinner, now of course folks dressed for everyday dinner but even more so for holidays. Today most people dress to go for broke when it comes to filling up their stomach with as much food as they possibly can. So rather than looking nice and well put together for dinner, most people just break out the sweat pants or loose jeans in order to accommodate for the needed expansion of room to be had.
The Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade, dating back to its 1924 start, was also a popular event in the home back then as more families started purchasing television sets for after dinner entertainment and leaving their dependence for the radio behind. Today, I don't really see or hear of too many people watching the parade on Television anymore. I think most people see them as slightly hum drum and are really only for child amusement with the over sized balloons and "toon" characters walking along side them. Most people these days after dinner are watching a movie, football, or just choose not to have the set blasting all together but enjoying quality time together.
So tradition seems to have changed here and there but for the most part they all seem to have glided over into what is appropriate for modern day times. Besides, what would the holiday be without stuffing your face silly, drinking warm ciders, and relaxing with family and friends around a bountiful table. After all, Thanksgiving does only come once a year!
'Til next time