Thanksgiving is such a quintessential American holiday that it was prominently featured in my novel, Darcy on the Hudson. Here is an excerpt from the story that shows a typical Thanksgiving in early 19th Century New York:
Before sunrise, Mrs. Bennet was in the kitchen seeing to the last minute details for today was Thanksgiving Day. After she was satisfied that everything was ready, she went upstairs to join the others who were waiting to leave for worship service. This was to be Mr. Collins’s first—and last—Thanksgiving Day in America, and he was aware of the importance placed on the holiday by his parishioners.
had shared with Lizzy that he had spent a good part of the previous week writing his sermon, and she thought it would be the best he had ever delivered. Lizzy, in Christian charity, refrained from making comment about the quality of Mr. Collins’s sermons as she had grown rather fond of the preacher. She especially liked how he often deferred to his wife when his thoughts were muddled, which was often the case. Charlotte
After the sermon, a collection was made with monies designated for the poor of the parish, and great hymns of praise were sung. Following a benediction, everyone gathered outside the church and complimented the Reverend Collins on his sermon. But there would be no lingering this day as there were chicken pies, hams, and roast turkeys to be eaten and apple and peach pies to be consumed.
There were fourteen seated at the Bennet’s dining table: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their four unmarried daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bingley, Mr. and Mrs. Mercer, Mr. Darcy and Miss Darcy, Mrs. Kraft, and Dirck Storm, who had sent word asking if he could join the Bennets for supper as he had done when he was a youth.
After Mr. Bennet had finished saying grace and had read his proclamation, he began to carve the turkey, and everyone waited in anticipation as the bird was dismembered and the first slices fell onto the meat platter. Plates were heaped with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash pies, plum pudding, and vegetables, and everyone was encouraged to gorge themselves. The second course of pickled oysters, cheese, grapes, jellies, dried fruits, and nuts was eaten with relish, and everyone admitted that a break was necessary before enjoying the desserts, and the young people adjourned to the rear parlor for charades.
After everyone had had a turn, Lizzy recommended that they try a new game, The Farmer’s Cat. While explaining the rules, she provided a demonstration for the clapping that went along with the game. Lizzy started with “The farmer’s cat is an adorable cat,” which Jane followed with “The farmer’s cat is an attractive cat.” Lizzy saw signs of trouble with William’s angry cat, and his second turn with an aggressive cat and noticed that all his efforts were directed toward Dirck Storm. Things did not improve with a belligerent and bellicose cat or a cunning and callous cat. By the time they had arrived at the letter “g,”
, Kitty, and Charles had been forced to drop out. Jane did not get beyond “h,” and Dirck was bested by the letter “j,” which caused Darcy to compliment the gentleman for getting as far as he did, he being an Lydia man and all. But Lizzy demolished William with keen, knowledgeable, kingly, kindred, and knotty. Fortunately, by the time the MacTavishes and Wesleys had come to join them for dessert, the room was too crowded for William to try to stare Dirck down. Oxford
After everyone had eaten their fill and could not eat another bite, Georgiana and Mary played tunes on the pianoforte so that all might dance, and the elders watched with amusement as Dirck and William vied for Lizzy’s attention. But with Darcy leaving in a week for England, there were puzzled expressions to go with the smiles. If the gentleman was so interested in
, then why had he not done something about it? Even though it was after before the last of the guests had gone home, there would be no answer that night. Elizabeth