Lonely Planet Writer

Happy Thanksgiving

No one should ever make a Top 10 Thanksgiving Travel list. As the USA's greatest holiday – without stress of gift-giving for Christmas, crass commercial guilt of Valentine's Day or the pressing need to go into steamy, crowded public spaces for something like July 4 – the four-day holiday is meant to be spent simply, in relative quiet, with friends and/or family, at home. It's wonderful.

There's debate on how it started. Some link it with the uppity Plymouth Pilgrims of 1621 who tsk-tsked over Native Americans crude agricultural techniques or the uncivilized tendency to hunt for food; proper preparation would mean livestock ready for slaughter. But after nearly half of the Mayflower passengers died within a year, they took what they could get.

A few things:

  • Those funny buckled hats: did Pilgrims really wear them? I asked the question a year ago (video below), and learned they had them, but only one hat survives (a woman's hat). They're linked to Spain's Camino de Santiago ultimately (click here for other unusual Thanksgiving links), and they definitely didn't have those neat buckles for another 50 years. Here's how to make them, or if you're tired of those, here's some less-traditional options.
  • Lots of people really wanted a national Thanksgiving holiday. George Washington tried and failed, before 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' composer Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned for 40 years prompting Lincoln to finally anoint it as a national holiday during the Civil War in 1863. Later, FDR moved it up in 1941 from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday to add time for Christmas shopping season.
  • The 10-day period around this year's Thanksgiving will see 24 million air passengers, which means delays and long lines on a good year. But the recently frenzy over TSA's pat-downs and full-body AIT screening at airports (and a 'national opt-out' rallies for those who feel it's an invasion of our rights to privacy) could make it worse. Remember to show up extra early if you're flying, and be nice – those TSA agents don't set the policy, and arguing about 'touched junk' will only get you into trouble and slow down lines. I recently went through an AIT screening and didn't realize until it was down. My focus remains on the shoes (see below).

If you're in the US, have a great Thanksgiving. If you're elsewhere, have a really great Thursday.