As we enter our Thanksgiving break, we thought it might be fun to look back on early Thanksgivings at St. Paul’s School.
Modern Thanksgiving was proclaimed for all states in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln and was usually held the last Thursday in November. St. Paul’s students did not get an extended holiday break (travel being a bit harder in those early days), but they did get the day off. And what a day it was! Early issues of the Horae Scholasticae have descriptions of the day’s events and festivities. The day always started out with a hope for ice, so that everyone could go skating on Lower School Pond. In the December 1860 issue they wrote, “We had a very pleasant holiday at our school on Thanksgiving day. It was a very pleasant day, just the kind of day to enjoy skating, and skating we had in abundance.” If there was snow, there was sledding as well as ice skating. In addition, the Missionary Society planned outdoor events, a special Chapel service was held, and a large dinner was served. In the evenings, students enjoyed music, charades, and other entertainments. Starting in 1882, they also attended an annual exhibit put on by the Scientific Association.
One of our favorite descriptions of Thanksgivings past can be found in the December 1883 issue of the Horae Scholasticae. Why do we like it? Because it it written in verse! Here are a few gems from this 134-line poem:
“Hereat they sat, then, with a ready will,
And having ta’en of breakfasting their fill,
Arose to seek the pleasures of the day,
Which were as follows: First, the skating race,
Much-looked-for, which, we are grieved to say,
For lack of ice unable to take place,
Was then postponed forever and for aye.”
On the Science exhibit:
“In either case they took themselves away
To find some newer spectacle in lieu of it,
And so, by slow degrees, they all repair,
One after other, up the School-House stair.
And, there arrived, on looking round they find
A gruesome place, where things of every kind, –
Sticks, stones, birds, beasts, and fishes, and machines,
Dead creatures stuffed, dried relics of marines,
With all the new varieties of beans,
Preserved in jars; engines and pickled snakes,
And flowers well-pressed, and fairy ferns and brakes
All on wide stands, in order due displayed,
The forces of dread Science stand arrayed.”
“What balmy odour rides the zephrys cool?
I smell the turkeys at the Upper School;
And the loud dinner-bell’s enchanting chime
Rings on a willing ear – ’tis dinner-time!
How shall I tell the turkeys that we swallowed,
Served up with many a goodly vegetable?
How praise enough the rare dessert that followed?
O Muse, I fear it is not practicable!”
And at the end of the day:
“Thanksgiving Day now over, each well-fed
And happy youth betook him to his bed”.
We wish everyone an equally enjoyable Thanksgiving break – feel free to drop us a poem to tell us all about it!