A Quiet Thanksgiving Day

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, November 27, 1913: Thanksgiving—Spent the day at home reading a book. No one came and so the time passed on and the day is almost spent.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I know that I can’t go back in time—but I feel bad that Grandma had such a boring Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year at my house. (If we could easily travel back and forth across time, I’d send a message, “Hey Grandma, want to come over to my house this year and join an awesome Thanksgiving gathering with some of your descendants?”)

Grandma’s family never seemed to do much on Thanksgiving Day. Maybe it was just a less important holiday back then.  Here’s what she wrote in 1912 and 1911.

November 28, 1912

Yesterday thought perhaps I’d go up to McEwensville for my dinner, but then I changed my mind as I didn’t think I could afford it. Besse was out this afternoon.  I actually believe that I am getting a rather bad cold.

It sounds like a church or the community hall in McEwensville held a Thanksgiving dinner (that Grandma didn’t attend). A least Grandma’s married sister Besse, who lived in nearby Watsontown, came out for awhile.

November 30, 1911

Today is Thanksgiving. We didn’t have such a terrible sumptuous repast either. I would have liked to have had a piece of a turkey gobbler and a dish of ice cream, but we were far from that. I sat at home all day doing miscellaneous jobs which I didn’t relish any too well.

33 thoughts on “A Quiet Thanksgiving Day

  1. Do you think that it has anything do to with being a farming family? I mean no disrespect and I don’t want to make a sweeping statement, but I have noticed that here there are a number of farming families (not including my parents) who don’t really seem to make a big deal of Christmas (one of the biggest days in the year here since we don’t have Thanksgiving). I’m just curious. I love Christmas!

      1. Sorry, I was so engrossed in thinking about back then that I wasn’t really thinking about how things are for you or me right now! 😀 I think you’re right that time has made a difference, but there are still some farming families in this county who don’t get very Christmassy. That said, I’m sure that if true of all sorts of professions, just like it is true many people from different professions love celebrating Christmas. My parents have always really loved Christmas and my Great-grandma, but my Grandma used to get a bit overwhelmed by the workload.

  2. It does sound as though Grandma wished for a happier holiday. I think Hetterbell touched on something: a girl in my church (whose dad was a farmer) told me when we were children that Thanksgiving was just regular day at their house. I always thought that was strange.

  3. Holidays didn’t used to be star-spangled media events with non-stop shopping. I’m only 58 years old, but I can remember when cheapie Halloween costumes didn’t arrive at the five and dime until about a week before Halloween and all these Fall decorations were just a gleam in some entrepreneur’s eye. Thanksgiving was a stand alone holiday and everyone went back to work the next day. Christmas was the same. Very low key. Yes, there was a Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade, but I can assure you it was Santa’s debut event every year and gift giving was not something that annually broke the family bank. So, I’m not surprised by Grandma’s quiet holiday.

  4. Congratulations!! Your blog was mentioned on Cheri Rowland’s wordpress.com blog today – it says
    Mixing analog and digital: other cool blog projects
    “Other blogs on WordPress.com experiment with found objects and handwritten letters and messages. Some bloggers have ongoing projects bringing their ancestors’ journals and scribbles to life, like A Hundred Years Ago and Home Front Girl Diary.”
    Nice Thanksgiving surprise and well deserved.

    1. It does seem strange how her family was really into some celebrations and not into others. Maybe the relative importance of some events has changed over the years.

  5. These entries speak volumes. There is a poignant quality to them.

    I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

  6. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving here, but the atmosphere is revving up for Christmas. It always seems odd to me that America has two large celebrations so close to one another. The family all get together, then a few weeks later do it all again.
    If one lives further away, how does one choose to get together for Thanksgiving or for Christmas?

  7. Yes, Thanksgiving seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year! Sorry Grandma’s was so lonely. I’m thankful you share these memories of Grandma’s with the world! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. I think holidays have gotten much more “special” and fanci-fied, even in my lifetime. It does feel sad, to think of Helena alone, when your house will be festive and warm–but she’ll be with you in spirit!

  9. I guess times do change, and practices vary from one place to another. Maybe their Thanksgivings were not so different from those of their friends and neighbors. It is hard to say, but I am glad to hear that you are anticipating a blessed day. Like you, I sometimes imagine sharing time with ancestors I never met. Wishing you a warm and heartfelt Thanksgiving Day …

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