The reason a Thanksgiving Day spent anywhere but home seems so jarring today, is due in large part to the power of a painting: Norman Rockwell’s 1943 “Freedom from Want”—part of the famous “Four Freedoms” series that Rockwell painted as part of the effort to sell War Bonds. Published on the cover of the March 6, 1943 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, the painting depicts a kindly-looking, white-haired patriarch and matriarch standing at the head of the table, as hungry family members—their smiling faces only partially visible—eagerly anticipate the mouth-watering turkey dinner that’s about to be served.
But Rockwell’s idealized Thanksgiving celebration is not the way it’s always been; it could even be argued that the idea of a tightly-knit family celebration at home would have been unfamiliar to even the Pilgrims.
“The meal we harken back to in 1621, is a totally anomalous situation to the way we think about it today,” says Kathleen Wahl, a culinarian and 17th-century food expert at Plimouth Plantation, the living history museum of the Pilgrim period in Plymouth, Massachusetts. “You have about 50 English people whose families were torn apart, by death or distance. It’s like a very modern, make-do family. Family is your neighbors, it’s whoever happens to be in the situation with you.”
The most punishing bicycle race in Swedish history was about to end. At any moment the first cyclist would appear in sight after five days of pedaling 1,000 miles from Haparanda near the Finnish border in the north to Ystad in the south. Thousands of people were lined up along the colorful main street of Ystad on that day in July 1954. Brass bands waited for the signal to play. A welcoming committee of civic officials were ready at the finish line.
As the leading cyclist rounded the distant bend in the high street, a great roar went up and the cheering crowd surged forward into the road to greet the winner. A lithe young man in neat shorts and singlet on a sleek racing bicycle? Not a bit of it. The cyclist first over the line was an old man with a fluffy white beard that reached halfway down his chest and almost covered the figure “O” on his vest. Moreover, he was mounted on a lady’s heavy-framed bicycle with a large hamper at the front and a flat tire at the rear.