Coming at the beginning of the farmer's rest, when the harvest is all gathered, this is a very joyous festival, and more than any other abounds in family reunions. Any toast therefore is appropriate which tells of the harvest, of fertility, of the closing year, of the family pride and traditions, of pleasure to young and old. At dinner, turkey and mince or
pumpkin pie will of course be served, and these national favorites roust not be forgotten by the toast-maker.
-Advice from the Toaster’s Handbook, 1901
There are two verbal rituals which are key to the celebration of Thanksgiving one is the grace spoken before dinner and the second is the toast or toasts which are offered before drinking. It is an old custom of the Day tied originally to the old Harvest Home celebrations when toasts were drunk to the lord and lady of the manor, such as this one which began:
Here's a health to our master,
The lord of the feast,
God bless his endeavors
And send him increase.
Here is a small collection of American Thanksgiving toasts. If they sound quaint and old-fashioned, they should: most of these were well known by the turn of the century.
Toasts to the Day
For every day of life we're living,
For friends assembled 'round this board,
Thanks we're giving.
For riches added to each hoard,
Thanks we're giving.
For every blessing, great and small,
Thanks give we all!
-Ida E.S. Noyes.
To Full Stomachs and Merry Hearts.
"The Great American Birds. "--May we have them
where we love them best--the Turkeys on our tables, the
Eagles in our pockets.
Here are sincere wishes for whatever will contribute most to you Thanksgiving joy and happiness.
Here's to the blessings of the year,
Here's to the friends we hold so dear,
To peace on earth, both far and near.
Here's to the day when the Yankees first acknowledged
Heaven's good gifts with Thank’ees.
May our pleasures be boundless
while we have time to enjoy them.
"Thanksgiving."--The magnetic festival that draws
back erratic wanderers to the Old Folks at Home.
Thanks to the Lord for the good things we eat,
Thanks to the Lord for the home where we meet,
For our parents and wives
And the loves of our lives
And the sweetest of sweethearts all sweet.
"The Thanksgiving Board."--While it groans with plenty within, who cares for the whistling of the wind
Thanksgiving Day! Thanksgiving Day!
Tis then our nation tries to pay
Its heavy debt of gratitude
For bountiful supplies of food,
And richest blessings that expand
To cover all of Freedom's land.
Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and South, come the Pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New-Englander sees round his board,
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before--
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
To the pastimes of Thanksgiving and the Present
Times in which we enjoy them.
To our national birds --
The American Eagle,
The Thanksgiving Turkey:
May one give us peace in all our States --
And the other a piece for all our plates.
-A very popular and common Thanksgiving toast of
the 19th and early 20th century, there were a number of
variations on this toast including this one:
The Two National Fowls of America,
The Federal Eagle and the Festal Turkey --May we always have peace
under the wings of the one, and be able to obtain a piece from the breast of the other.
And this one (with clear "best government is the
least government" overtones.)
The Turkey and the Eagle; we love to have the one
soar high, but wish the other to roost low.
"Thrice welcome the day in its annual round;
What treasures of love in its bosom are found;
New England's high holiday, ancient and dear,
'T'would be twice as welcome if twice in a year."
To the Inventor of Pumpkin Pie --God bless her.
When turkeys on the table laid,
And good things I may scan,
I’m thankful that I wasn't made
-Edgar A. Guest
Toasts to the Bird
There was a time when the turkey was toasted before the carving commenced. Commonly a line from classical literature was used. Anyone wishing to the revive the custom can pick from this collection.
Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it.
-Shakespeare, Macbeth, i, 4.
Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow.
-Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, iv, 4.
He made me mad
To see him shine so brisk and smell so sweet.
-Shakespeare, I Henry TV, i, 3.
Here he comes, swelling like a turkey-cock.
-Shakespeare, Henry V, V, I.
Stuffed with all honourable virtues.
-Shakespeare, Much Ado, i, X.
Let the land
Look for his peer:
he has not yet been found.
-Thomas B. Aldrich.