Thanksgiving is among the oldest uniquely American traditions. Though not declared an official national holiday until 1941, Thanksgiving as we know it was born from the autumn harvest feast early colonists shared with Wampanoag Indians in 1621 in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The customary Thanksgiving dinner of today is an adaptation of what was served in colonial Massachusetts nearly 400 years ago. Historians speculate the original meal included familiar items like beans, carrots, peas, onions, cranberries, and some form of fowl — turkey or otherwise. Unlike today, shellfish, venison, blueberries, and raspberries were also likely served, while potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie were notably absent from the menu.
The bounty of food served at the first Thanksgiving represented a feat of survival; a triumph of hunting, farming, and cooperation over an unforgiving wilderness in an unfamiliar world.
Today, the full feast can be secured with a short trip to the grocery store and less than $50.
For decades, the American Farm Bureau Federation has tracked the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for a group of 10. The calculation includes the cost of a 16-pound turkey, stuffing, potatoes, dinner rolls, cranberries, and of course, pumpkin pie.
Like everything else, the costs of these items are subject to the laws of supply and demand and do not remain constant. Accounting for inflation, the total cost of a Thanksgiving dinner has fluctuated by as much as 35% since 1947.
This year, the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 is $48.90. The score of the annual Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game is anyone’s guess.
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