It dates back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621, when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that lasted three days.
Historians have no record of the banquet’s exact menu, but according to History.com, the colonists and Native Americans shared fowl and deer with each other at a communal meal, along with corn and other harvest vegetables.
Turkey became a Thanksgiving staple “so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday.”
The practice of sharing a Thanksgiving turkey gift with family, friends and neighbors has endured ever since that first feast, making it America’s oldest tradition.
Now, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.
“The essence of Thanksgiving has remained the same for almost 400 years and gratitude … is the watchword of the day,” according to Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of “Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience.”
Kirkpatrick spent years researching the history of Thanksgiving for her book.
We asked Kirkpatrick to explain the Thanksgiving turkey gift tradition — and how it also came to be a tradition in the workplace.
How a Thanksgiving Turkey Gift Became an American Workplace Tradition
What is it about Thanksgiving that is so appealing to Americans, and especially American workers?
“Thanksgiving is different. It’s something for everybody.”
It’s also inclusive of new Americans, who often have their first exposure to the holiday through the workplace.
Thanksgiving is “very much associated with immigrants. It’s a holiday that new immigrants really grab onto and take as their own. Every new generation of immigrants has taken on Thanksgiving,” Kirkpatrick said.
For immigrants, “the idea of sitting down and eating this enormous turkey is new … Turkey isn’t that widespread in most parts of the world. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s an expression of their new lives.”
Finally, she said, the idea of giving thanks is “profoundly important” to all Americans.
It’s impressed on the American spirit. What it means to be American includes generosity. I think one of the saddest images in American cultural life would be the person who’s alone on Thanksgiving Day.
On Thanksgiving Day, the definition of family is very elastic — it includes everybody in your circle. If there’s a single person at work who doesn’t have a place to go for the holiday, it’s taken for granted that one of his colleagues will ask him to join his or her family for dinner. It’s built into our DNA after all these years!
So how did employers first get the idea to give a Thanksgiving turkey gift to their employees? One theory is that employers were inspired by Charles Dickens and his short story, “A Christmas Carol,” about Ebenezer Scrooge. Kirkpatrick explained:
At the end of the story, you may remember, Scrooge wakes up from a sleep in which he’s seeing these various angels telling him his unfortunate future. He decides to become a new man. The first thing he does is open the window and find out it’s Christmas Day. He sees a boy walking down the street and asks him to go buy the biggest turkey at the nearby butcher and take it to his employee, Bob Cratchit. So that’s one theory of how the tradition of giving turkeys to employees at holiday-time got started.
She also pointed to the rarity and specialness of turkey as a holiday centerpiece around the turn of the 20th century.
Employers saw Thanksgiving turkey gifts as a way to give a “very special holiday treat to employees, all of whom could appreciate it,” Kirkpatrick said.
Nowadays we’re lucky to have the convenience of sharing Turkey Gift Certificates instead of a frozen bird — but the spirit behind the gift, and the message it sends, remains the same.
That’s because, while the rites and rituals of Thanksgiving have evolved over the centuries, the essence of the holiday has been consistent. Thanksgiving is about feasting together in a spirit of gratitude, neighborliness and hospitality.
Turkeys are a practical expression of gratitude at Thanksgiving — it’s a gift recipients will enjoy with family and friends during a special meal.
gThankYou! Turkey Gift Certificates put gratitude first, too. Every order includes your choice of free customizable and personalized “Thank You” Enclosure Cards to help you express your message of appreciation.
gThankYou customers choose our Certificates for a Thanksgiving turkey gift because we make it easy for giver and recipient alike.
gThankYou! Turkey Gift Certificates are easy to share, and recipients love the flexibility to choose the brand and preparation of whole turkey that’s right for their family, at virtually all major grocery stores nationwide.
To this day, a turkey is still a special gift for employees — and good for business.
Our “10 Reasons to Give Employees a Thanksgiving Turkey” page explains why. You can also download “10 Reasons” as a PDF-file brochure for easy printing and sharing at meetings with coworkers and leadership.
About gThankYou, LLC
Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any grocery store in the U.S. Find out more: gThankYou Gift Certificates.
gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.
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