It should be warm and peaceful, this holiday dedicated to expressing gratitude, eating copious amounts of carbs, and gathering with family and friends. But everything bright also has a shadow side. This means the Thanksgiving table can become a fraught location for the explosion of long-held grudges, shocking revelations, and, sometimes, fresh starts.

This feast day is modeled (somewhat mythologically) on the 1621 harvest meal shared by the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the native Wampanoag people. Spoiler: Turkey wasn’t on the original menu! The three-day feast included local game, like venison, duck, and goose, as well as oysters, eel, cranberries, and pumpkins — but not pie.

President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official national holiday in 1863, thanks in no small part to author Sarah Josepha Hale. In addition to writing the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb, she wrote pro-Thanksgiving letters for 17 years (!) to presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and, finally, Lincoln, who formalized the national holiday as a balm for the country after the Civil War.

Now, the fourth-Thursday-of-November is an annual excuse to gather our favorite people, devote a full day to eating and football, and, perhaps, work our way through some serious family drama. Delicious!

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