It's NOT about the Turkey

By Jennifer Duncan


Three friends, aided by several prominent historical figures, discuss what they think Thanksgiving is all about.

Author's Note: This was originally written as a puppet script, but can be easily adapted for use as a sketch performed by actors.



(CLEM comes up, laughing to himself.)

CLEM: Oooooohhhhweeeeee! Haw-haw! 'Plymouth Rock'! That's some funny stuff!

(SARAH comes up while CLEM continues laughing.)

SARAH: Clem, what's so funny?

CLEM: Oh, Sarah, you've just GOT to hear some of the Thanksgiving jokes my Uncle Clarence told me. They are hysterical!

SARAH: Oh, no, not Uncle Clarence jokes!

CLEM: Wha-are you implying that my Uncle Clarence's jokes aren't funny?

SARAH: Oh, I'm not IMPLYING anything. Your Uncle Clarence tells the corniest jokes I've ever heard.

(OWEN comes up.)

OWEN: Hey, guys, whatcha doin'?

SARAH: Clem was just about to torture me with Uncle Clarence jokes.

OWEN: Uncle Clarence jokes! I LOVE Uncle Clarence jokes! C'mon-tell us one!

SARAH: (Groans.)

CLEM: Okay, here goes . . . What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?

SARAH: Oh, no, here it comes . . .

CLEM: Plymouth Rock! Haw-haw! (OWEN laughs with him. SARAH shakes her head.)

OWEN: Oh, Clem, tell us another one!

CLEM: Okay, okay . . . Why can't you take a turkey to church?

OWEN: I give up, Clem. Why CAN'T you take a turkey to church?

CLEM: Because they use such FOWL language! Get it? 'Fowl language'! Hooo, boy! (OWEN laughs with him.)

SARAH: Oh, I have got to get out of here!

CLEM: Wait! Don't leave! I have another one: If the Pilgrims were alive today, what would they be most famous for? (Pause.) Their AGE! (CLEM and OWEN laugh uncontrollably.)

SARAH: Oh, boy. No more, please.

CLEM: Uncle Clarence's jokes are what Thanksgiving is all about!

OWEN: What about turkey? THAT'S what Thanksgiving's all about.

CLEM: Oh, and pumpkin pie!

OWEN: Oh, yeah! Pumpkin pie! Mmmmmm!

CLEM: And mashed potatoes!

OWEN: Oooo, I love mashed potatoes!

SARAH: Now, wait just a minute, there, guys. Thanksgiving is NOT all about turkey-

OWEN: What-

SARAH: Or pumpkin pie-

CLEM: Now, hold-

SARAH: Or mashed potatoes-

OWEN: Hey-

SARAH: And Thanksgiving is most CERTAINLY NOT about Uncle Clarence's corny jokes!

CLEM: Oh, don't you go sayin' anything bad about Uncle Clarence, now.

OWEN: Well, if Thanksgiving ISN'T about those things, then what IS it about?

CLEM: Yeah, enlighten us, oh wise one.

SARAH: Well, a major clue is in the name: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is all about GIVING THANKS.

OWEN: 'Giving thanks'? For what?

CLEM: Yeah, and to whom?

SARAH: Well, it's about giving thanks to God for all of the ways He has blessed us and taken care of us in the past.

CLEM: How do you know so much?

SARAH: Well, I PAY ATTENTION in class-

(CLEM and OWEN groan together.)

SARAH: . . . And my dad's a big history buff, so he tells us the story of Thanksgiving when the day is getting close.

CLEM: Awwww, HISTORY? I HATE history.

OWEN: Not me, it's my best subject.

SARAH: So then you know the story about the Pilgrims and how Thanksgiving got started, then?

OWEN: Know it? Oh, sure-I know all about it. (He turns to CLEM) See, the Pilgrims wanted to go to the New World, 'cause they heard there was gold out there, so Patrick Henry told them that when it was safe for them to leave, they'd know it by how many lanterns were hanging up in this church tower. One if by sea, and two if by land, he said. And when it was time to go, this guy Benedict Arnold yelled out, 'Remember the Alamo!' And that got them all fired up, . . . well, that, and seeing the rockets' red glare and the bombs blowing up the air and stuff, and they jumped on the ship to go, but it hit an iceberg and sank. So the survivors set aside Thanksgiving as a day to say thanks to God for sending the ship to rescue them. (All throughout OWEN'S tale, SARAH shakes her head.)

CLEM: Well, where does the turkey come in?

OWEN: Oh, that. Well, the Pilgrims weren't allowed to eat red meat because of the mad cow disease, so they just cooked up a turkey.

SARAH: I'm amazed at your ability to make things up!

CLEM: Are you saying that's NOT how the story goes?

SARAH: Not even close. Owen has just mixed up about seven different parts of history. And one part make-believe. 'Mad cow disease'!

CLEM: It may not be historically accurate, but it sure would make a good movie!

SARAH: I'm shocked at you two! You really don't know the history behind Thanksgiving?

CLEM: All I know is that we don't have to go to school, and we get to stuff ourselves until we're sick-two great things, if you ask me!

SARAH: Listen, it's nice to get the day off from school, and it's nice to share a meal with your family and friends, and, as much as I hate to admit it, it's even nice to hear Uncle Clarence's silly jokes, but those aren't the REASON for celebrating. Actually, Thanksgiving wasn't originally meant to be a celebration in any sense of the word; it was supposed to be a day of thoughtful meditation on how God had brought the Pilgrims through the roughest time any of them had ever experienced.

OWEN: Aunt Edna's Brussels sprouts!

SARAH: Excuse me?

OWEN: If you ever had them, you'd know. That's the roughest thing I've ever experienced!

SARAH: You've been blessed, then. Imagine sailing for over nine weeks across the Atlantic Ocean, freezing the entire time and feeling seasick.

OWEN: Why would anyone want to do something crazy like that?

SARAH: Well, because they were searching for a better life and the freedom to worship God in their own way. The Pilgrims were facing persecution for their religious beliefs in their home country, and they were willing to risk the sea and a New World to escape it.

CLEM: What about freedom of religion? It's in the Constitution!

SARAH: The Constitution hadn't been written yet. It came a long time AFTER the Pilgrims settled here.

OWEN: What happened to them-the Pilgrims?

SARAH: Well, some of them died during the ocean voyage. But they finally made it here on November 9, 1620. The ones who survived the trip faced a very harsh winter, so harsh that as many as one half of the Pilgrims died. The years that followed were filled with hard work and uncertainty. But they received God's comfort, encouragement, and blessing during those difficult years. So, in 1623, a grateful William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, decided to commemorate the great harvest of that year.

(WILLIAM BRADFORD comes up. CLEM and OWEN are surprised, but SARAH is not.)

WILLIAM BRADFORD: 'All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones, do gather at the Meeting House, on the hill . . . there to listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.'

(He bows and goes back down.)

OWEN: (To SARAH) How did you do that?

SARAH: It's a secret!

CLEM: So that's how Thanksgiving got started?

SARAH: That was the first Thanksgiving celebration, but it still wasn't an official holiday. Over 150 years later, in 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed the first National Thanksgiving. It was just after the Revolutionary War, when the colonies won their freedom from England and formed a new nation. The third Thursday of December, 1777, was to be set aside 'for solemn thanksgiving and praise.'

OWEN: That's not right! Thanksgiving isn't in December!

SARAH: You're right, Owen. It isn't. In 1795, George Washington, our first President, declared that Thursday, February 19, was to be a National Day of Thanksgiving.

(GEORGE WASHINGTON comes up. He clears his throat.)

GEORGE WASHINGTON: '[It is] our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced . . . '

(GEORGE WASHINGTON takes a bow and goes back down.)

CLEM: Whoa! Hold on, there! I may not know anything about the Pilgrims, but I know for a fact that Thanksgiving is NOT in February.

SARAH: No, Clem, it isn't. But that's because Abraham Lincoln changed the date again. In October, 1863, while the nation was still in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Congress established the first ANNUAL National Day of Thanksgiving 'on the last Thursday of November.' And that's when we celebrate it today.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN: 'The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. . . . In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, . . . peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.'

(He bows and goes back down.)

SARAH: So there you have it, guys. Thanksgiving began as a way to thank God for His provision for the Pilgrims. And it was re-established to honor God for granting us victory in the Revolutionary War. Finally, it became an annual celebration during the Civil War to acknowledge God's grace and blessing upon our nation. And that's what we're supposed to do each year when we come together: thank God for all that He's done for us over the past year and for all of our history.

OWEN: What a good idea! Setting aside a day to thank God for all that He's done for us. I wonder why nobody ever thought of that before the Pilgrims?

SARAH: Thanksgiving isn't exactly a new idea, Owen. King David wrote about it in the book of Psalms. And that was thousands of years ago.

OWEN: He did? Wow, they ate turkey all the way back then?

SARAH: I thought I told you, Thanksgiving ISN'T about the turkey. It's about the attitude of your heart. THAT'S what King David wrote about. An ATTITUDE of thanksgiving.

(KING DAVID puppet comes up. The others turn to him. He speaks with great energy and passion.)

KING DAVID: 'Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.'

(He takes a bow and goes back down.)

OWEN: Wow! He really gets into it, doesn't he?

CLEM: Somebody get that guy a tambourine!

SARAH: He sure does 'get into it.' He's PASSIONATE about giving thanks to God. We all need to be passionate about thanksgiving.

CLEM: I can be passionate about Thanksgiving. (Yells) GOD, THANK YOU FOR TURKEY!


CLEM: OH, AND CRANBERRY SAUCE! I love cranberry sauce!

SARAH: Okay, okay, I get it. History lesson over. But, promise me something, all right?

CLEM: You got it.

OWEN: What's that?

SARAH: Just promise me that when you sit down to that big turkey dinner, you'll think about what I told you and remember that Thanksgiving is not about the food, or the vacation day.

CLEM: Can do.

OWEN: No problem.

SARAH: Oh, and if you can, remember to have an ATTITUDE of thanksgiving, and really thank God for all that He's blessed you with. I'm telling you, doing that will make that turkey taste a hundred times better.

OWEN: Really? Because Aunt Edna's turkey is almost INEDIBLE.

SARAH: (Groans.)

OWEN: I mean, I can handle her Brussels sprouts. But her turkey-

CLEM: (To SARAH) Shall we go?

SARAH: Yes. (Pause.) 'Plymouth Rock'! That's not even funny.

CLEM: Come on, you have to admit, it's at least a LITTLE funny.

OWEN: But her applesauce has GOT to be the worst-

SARAH: Well, maybe a little. But that one about taking turkeys to church-


(CLEM and SARAH go down, leaving OWEN)

OWEN: Last year I gave mine to the cat.

(Lights fade out.)


© Copyright Jennifer Duncan. All rights reserved.
This play may be performed without royalty, provided no charge is made for admittance. In return, the author would appreciate being notified of any performance. She may be contacted at