As the furor over the national elections wanes, our thoughts can again turn toward home, gratitude, and the approaching season of holidays. In another week, families across the country will gather around tables full of traditional foods of turkey, squash, mashed potatoes, and many kinds of pie. And while the Plymouth Colony, with Pilgrims and Native Americans feasting together, is what springs to mind as the origin of this holiday, the story is far larger.

The Thanksgiving that we recognize was established primarily through the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1837 to 1877. (Sarah also wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” based upon a true incident.)

As the popularity of Sarah’s magazine grew, she used its pages to advocate that “The Last Thursday in November shall be the Day of National Thanksgiving for the American People.” She wrote yearly articles and letters until October 3, 1863, when President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November. Though this officially applied only to residents of the District of Columbia and federal employees, it standardized the celebration, which up till then had been largely a matter left to the states and varied from October to January. (George Washington had proclaimed November 26, 1789, as a “Day of Publick Thanskgivin,” and various other presidential proclamations similarly named one date only for its observance.)

It wasn’t until Franklin Delano Roosevelt encountered a November with five Thursdays (in 1939, near the end of his second of four terms as president), and, concerned for consumers as well as merchants about the abbreviated shopping season before Christmas, initiated a change to the second Thursday of the month.

After a year of confusion over the holiday, with some following Lincoln’s set date and others following FDR’s, Congress resolved the matter by passing a bill in 1941 to make Thanksgiving officially the fourth Thursday of the month. (The House proposal named the last Thurday, but the Senate, living up to its reputation as the “upper” house of Congress, amended the proposal to the fourth Thursday of November, which we still observe today.)

France has no similar holiday or tradition—indeed, no other country has a Thanksgiving-though France is said to be the largest producer of turkeys in the European Union. Other traditional Thanksgiving foods might not be as welcomed in Paris, however; yet what would Thanksgiving be without the traditional green-bean casserole with onion rings or canned cranberry sauce?! Pass the pie, please. No, the other one.

Thanks to the focus of Ms. Hale, with the blessing of two presidents, our country now stops briefly to feast and reflect on the year that’s passed and the revelry that is coming. We eat turkey, not lamb, perhaps as yet another bow to Ms. Hale. And while the madness of Black Friday may not appeal, remember that shopping is as American as Thanksgiving (FDR implied so), and Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a wonderful time to support a local artist or antique dealer.

As your local premiere house cleaning and house watching service in the Hamptons, we here at A Votre Service! invite you to call us if we can help prepare for your festivities.

We hope that you will find a way to nourish yourself with good food, a walk on the beach, and joyful time with friends and family.