Arts & Culture 2020

Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience

Mon Nov 23, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Event Video

Rescheduled! This program will now take place on Monday, Nov. 23

We all know the story of Thanksgiving. Or do we? This uniquely American holiday has a rich and little known history beyond the famous feast of 1621.

In “Thanksgiving,” award-winning author Melanie Kirkpatrick journeys through four centuries of history, giving us a vivid portrait of our nation’s best-loved holiday. Drawing on newspaper accounts, private correspondence, historical documents and cookbooks, “Thanksgiving” brings to life the full history of the holiday and what it has meant to generations of Americans.

Many famous figures walk these pages: Washington, who proclaimed our first Thanksgiving as a nation amid controversy about his Constitutional power to do so; Lincoln, who wanted to heal a divided nation sick of war when he called for all Americans to mark a Thanksgiving Day; FDR, who set off a debate on state’s rights when he changed the traditional date of Thanksgiving.

Ordinary Americans also play key roles in the Thanksgiving story: Indians who boycott Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning; Sarah Josepha Hale, the nineteenth-century editor who campaigned for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday; the 92nd Street Y in New York City, which founded Giving Tuesday, an online charity pegged to the long Thanksgiving weekend.

While the rites and rituals of the holiday have evolved over the centuries, its essence remains the same: family and friends feasting together in a spirit of gratitude, neighborliness and hospitality. Thanksgiving is America’s oldest tradition. Join Vail Symposium for Kirkpatrick’s enlightening exploration that offers a fascinating look at the meaning of the holiday that we gather together to celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November.

Event Video


Melanie Kirkpatrick

Melanie Kirkpatrick

Writer, Journalist and Fellow

Hudson Institute