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Jewish Recipes --> Recipes --> Kosher Recipes --> Kosher Thanksgiving Recipes

Where did Thanksgiving come from?

"Chag ha-Sukkot," or 'the holiday of Sukkot,' is a holiday of thanksgiving, named after the sukkah or temporary hut which the Israelites built and lived in during their wanderings in the Sinai desert, and which we Jews build and "dwell" in for seven days, eating all our meals there with many people even sleeping in their sukkot (plural of sukkah). Sukkot also has an agricultural aspect to it, as it celebrates the ingathering of the fall harvest and giving thanks to G-d for His bounty and sustenance. This is evident in the other name by which Sukkot is known in Hebrew, which is "Chag ha-Assif," or the "Harvest Ingathering holiday."

Turkey Recipes

Pumpkin Recipes

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What to do with Turkey leftovers:

The Pilgrims were known to be very religious. They were very well versed in the Bible (the Jewish Torah) and the holidays prescribed by it. They knew about the three Pilgrimage Holidays of the Jews of which Sukkot (translated not-so-correctly into English as "The Feast of Tabernacles") is the third and last in the sequence of Passover and Shavuot (known in English as "Pentecost"). The English word 'Tabernacle' does not really reflect what the holiday is about because it refers to the traveling sanctuary the Israelites had in the desert, not the temporary "booths" or sukkot in which they dwelled.

So where does Thanksgiving come in? As stated above, the Pilgrims were cognizant of the Jewish Biblical holiday of thanksgiving to G-d for His bounty, and after wanting to give thanks to G-d for the bountiful harvest, and for surviving in the New World (where they might have looked upon themselves as the "new Israelites" in a
"new Promised Land"), they looked to the Torah for a model--which they found in the holiday of Sukkot.

There are historical accounts indicating that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated for three days with feasting and rejoicing, modeled after Sukkot, which is a seven-day holiday during which we are enjoined to be joyful, as is written in the Torah in Leviticus 23:40, "And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days."

Why Turkey on Thanksgiving?

Did you know that at one point, Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird instead of the Bald Eagle?  In a letter to his daughter, he said about the turkey:

" . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

The turkey, moreover, was a true 'native American,' being indigenous to the eastern United States and to northern Mexico, and was prevalent in the time of the Pilgrims.  But it seems more likely that they used other fowl and animals, such as duck, goose, deer, and possibly even seal and cod at their Thanksgiving feast of 1621.

An interesting note is that the Hebrew name for turkey is "Tarnigol Hodu.  Part of the name, "Hodu,"  means "give thanks." Wouldn't it be interesting if the Pilgrims knew that--they were very well versed in the Torah, after all--and that is why they chose the turkey to be the mainstay of the menu, on the day they 'gave thanks' to G-d?!

Turkey Terms

  • Caruncle - brightly colored growths on the throat region. Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.
  • Gizzard - a part of a bird's stomach that contains tiny stones. It helps them grind up food for digestion.
  • Hen - a female turkey.
  • Poult - a baby turkey. A chick.
  • Snood - the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak. Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.
  • Tom - a male turkey. Also known as a gobbler.
  • Wattle - the flap of skin under the turkey's chin. Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.
  • Scientific genus and species: Meleagris gallopavo

Why Pumpkins on Thanksgiving?

When the Colonists landed in North America they found the Indians growing and using pumpkins. This large, ungainly fruit was enthusiastically embraced by the new Americans and subsequently pumpkin pie became a national Thanksgiving tradition. It was so loved that one early Connecticut colony delayed Thanksgiving because the molasses needed to make this popular pie wasn't readily available. Large, round and orange, the pumpkin is a member of the gourd family, which also includes muskmelon, watermelon and squash. Its orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavor and the seeds-husked and roasted-are delicately nutty. Pumpkin seeds are commonly known as pepitas.

Sept 2005 - 2013 - Kosher Recipes - Kosher Cooking - Jewish Cooking - Jewish Recipes - Jewish Foods