You may think that a plant-based Thanksgiving is a blasphemy, and see no reason why we should give up the tradition of eating a turkey, replacing it with a stuffed pumpkin, tofurky, or whatever, but please hear me out.

As much as we like to stick to traditional way of doing things, and protest against changing anything for the sake of TRADITION—the most important criteria for keeping a tradition should be how well those traditions are serving us TODAY, knowing what we know, being who we are RIGHT NOW.

The most important criteria for keeping or changing a tradition should be—how well those traditions are serving us TODAY, knowing what we know, being who we are RIGHT NOW.

And right now our planet is in trouble. Scientists say we are heading towards planetary breakdown, and even if we ended fossil fuels today, our food system alone would send us over 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, with animal agriculture being the worst offender*.

With 8 billion of people in the world, and 80 billion of land animals and trillions of sea animals killed each year; we truly have a huge sustainability problem on our hands, and even switching to “free-range,” “cage-free,” “organic” meat and dairy, as some propose, will only make the matter worse.

Turkeys do not smile very much! Dang they have no reason, especially on Thanksgiving!

So, back to Thanksgiving.

It is generally believed that in 1621, the Pilgrims invited Wampanoag Indians to a feast in Plymouth Colony to celebrate their first harvest with turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Well, maybe it happened like that, but from what we know today, probably not.

Traditions that relate to certain events in the past often bear little resemblance to the actual events—and it’s okay.

FACT: Thanksgiving as we know it was created by ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ author—not the Pilgrims

Sarah Josepha Hale – does that name mean anything to you?

You may not have heard of her, but she is the woman who created Thanksgiving as we now celebrate it.

This may come as a surprise to you, because it’s a little known fact, but without Sarah Jessica Hale there would be no Thanksgiving as we know it.

Without Sarah Josepha Hale—later known as “the Mother of Thanksgiving”—there would be no turkey on the table, no gravy, no cranberry sauce, and no pumpkin pie.

Most importantly, there would be no Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

She was the one who conceived the idea, and then shaped the entire celebration—complete with putting together the menu items and the recipes that are now familiar to everyone across North America and beyond.

Yes, festive thanksgiving dinners were celebrated around the country, but not necessarily on the same day and not necessarily with the same food, and they were not given in the celebration of the 1621 feast.

It was Sarah Josepha Hale, an author, poet and magazine editor, a feminist, and an influential woman of her time (and the author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) who conceived the idea of the thanksgiving celebration and making it into a national holiday.

She had a VISION, and she CONSISTENTLY and TIRELESSLY WORKED toward fulfillment of that vision. She wrote letters and articles, spoke to people, sent petitions to politicians and presidents—until they listened.

She wrote not one, not two letters—but probably dozens, maybe even hundreds. She did that not for a week or a month, but over the period of many years.

In fact, for forty years, she lobbied any and all politicians she could, ultimately appealing to President Lincoln himself.

She kept doing it, even though probably at the beginning nobody listened to her. But she had not stopped … until it worked.

Finally, in the summer of 1863, on the heels of the decisive battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, President Lincoln granted her wish declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday.

And Sarah Josepha Hale knew exactly how this holiday celebration should look like. In her 1823 novel ‘Northwood; or, a Tale of New England’, she devoted an entire chapter to one such dinner, describing it in much detail, complete with roast turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie.

As a result of her commitment, her passion, her belief, she single-handedly accomplished a huge goal influencing the lives of millions. She created one of the biggest holiday traditions—Thanksgiving as we know it—which bears little resemblance to the original celebration.

Ironically, apart from the food that is served during this holiday, today’s Thanksgiving bears little resemblance to Sarah Josepha Hale’s vision, either. The rather solemn celebration, that was about giving thanks, helping the poor and feeding the homeless, turned into a thanksgiving extravaganza, complete with the Macy’s Day Parade, football games galore, and enough food wasted to sink a ship.

What Was Done – Can be Un-Done

Unfortunately, what Hale had created with good intentions is hurtful for the animals, for people, and our planet. As a result of her work, commitment, and passion millions of animals are bread every year for the sole purpose of being killed, baked and served as a centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table–while people gather around to celebrate and give thanks.

Unfortunately, that’s her legacy.

Quite depressing, really. Tragic, even.

So why do I even talk about it?

Because what she did – can be undone.

Today, we can create NEW TRADITIONS.

Traditions that are just and COMPASSIONATE, truly HUMANE and JOYFUL.

Traditions that don’t require hurting anyone and don’t damage our planet.

Today, it’s time for new Thanksgiving traditions.

Traditions that are about giving thanks, being gentle and compassionate towards all beings.

If you think that’s impossible, that it will be an affront to the original Thanksgiving celebration that took place in 1621—think again.

The way we celebrate this holiday has very little to do with what the original celebration looked like, and everything to do with a vision of one influential woman, whom we know little about today.

It’s okay to shape new traditions. It’s okay to change traditions. Sarah Josepha Hale taught us how.

That’s the positive part of her legacy.

We can follow in her footsteps—with DETERMINATION, COMMITMENT, and PASSION—to re-invent the Thanksgiving tradition, as well as other traditions around the globe.

And this stuffed pumpkin recipe is a good start.

stuffed pumpkins


According to the IPCC, the food sector is responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. The report states that “food sector emissions alone could add nearly 1°C to global warming by 2100” 1The foods with the highest methane emissions are ruminant meat like beef and lamb, dairy products and also rice, accounting for 75 percent of the projected damage 1.

The report also suggests that reducing meat consumption could be an effective way to mitigate and adapt to climate change 2A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that phasing out all animal agriculture has the potential to substantially alter the trajectory of global warming 3.