‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why There Wasn’t a Thanksgiving Episode, According to Melissa Gilbert

If you’re a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you’ve likely wondered why the show doesn’t have a Thanksgiving episode. Many TV fans look forward to Thanksgiving episodes of their favorite shows, so you might have done a quick Internet search only to come up empty-handed. Here’s what Melissa Gilbert revealed about the real reason this holiday wasn’t celebrated on the show. 

Thanksgiving on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

The cast of Little House on the Prairie poses for a picture
The Little House on the Prairie cast | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

According to Melissa Gilbert (she played Laura Ingalls), there wasn’t a Thanksgiving episode on Little House on the Prairie. However, Thanksgiving was mentioned during Little House on the Prairie Season 3 Episode 6 (titled “Journey into the Spring”).

Also, a turkey (Carrie named him Tom) did have a small part during that episode. Carrie got attached to the turkey and asked Caroline (played by Karen Grassle) if he could sleep in her bed. She treated the turkey like a pet instead of dinner.

During this episode, Mary (played by Melissa Sue Anderson) and Laura are looking for a way to talk to Carrie about what will happen to the turkey they purchased. They don’t know how to tell her that Tom will eventually be cooked and eaten for dinner.

During episode 7, Laura seeks advice from her father, Charles (played by Michael Landon). “She thinks that turkey is a pet; she doesn’t know we’re going to eat it,” Laura tells her father about Carrie. Laura eventually convinces her grandfather to return the turkey to the farm where they bought him and set him free.

Why ‘Little House on the Prairie’ didn’t have a Thanksgiving episode

Michael Landon with Melissa Gilbert and the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ cast | NBCU Photo Bank

In her book, Gilbert says Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday only a few years before the Ingalls family story takes place. This is why there wasn’t a Thanksgiving episode, according to Gilbert. The Little House on the Prairie book (which the TV show is based on) tells the story of the Ingalls family, and takes place from 1874 to 1875.

George Washington issued a proclamation that declared Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day for giving thanks. According to the National Archives, Thanksgiving wasn’t regularly celebrated on the last Thursday of each year until President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation, making the day a national holiday.

By 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a resolution declaring the fourth Thursday of November (instead of saying the last Thursday) to be the Federal Thanksgiving holiday. He wanted to be specific since some November months have five Thursdays (November 2018 is one example).

‘The Little House Years’

Little House on the Prairie fans eventually got to see the Ingalls family have Thanksgiving dinner during a three-hour special titled The Little House Years. This 1979 special focused on the Ingalls family’s Thanksgiving dinner in 1879. After the dinner, Laura Ingalls looks back on significant moments from the family’s life.

Food on The Little House on the Prairie set came from many different places. In her book, Gilbert says they often ate chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Dinty Moore beef stew and Pillsbury biscuits were also on the menu.

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