November 2004



>Warning: This is off the top of my head<

Hmmmm… Ben (from Britain) asks such a simple question, ” Not wishing to seem wholly ignorant, but what *exactly* is this thanksgiving malarky all about? Is it effectively an excuse to cheer up another winter evening, rather like when we have fireworks?”

yet… it has its important historical roots, and unlike most of the holidays that Americans celebrate, it is one of two that is uniquely American and actually interesting. It, along with the Fourth of July are important days for history.

The other unique holidays are less interesting and relevant:

Martin Luther King, Jr, Day: Ok, he was VERY important, but… to celebrate his birthday with a day off is a bit of an insult. I support the notion to celebrate it as “A Day On, not a Day Off” — meaning that one should go out in the community and volunteer in any possible way.

President’s Day–a holiday for the great presidents (Washington, Lincoln, F. D. Roosevelt) not so great (Reagan), forgettable (…), and unforgettable (Nixon); as well as the current one.

Memorial Day: Memorializing the war dead… important, but not unique

Flag Day: Seriously, this exists. We have a day set aside to remember all the wonderful things the flag has done for us: flapping in the wind to keep us up at night; provide decoration for the top of tall metal poles that seem to crop up in odd places; and give us something to face when the national anthem is sung before football games.

Fourth of July: Unique to the USA; Very important.

Labor Day: Unique in that because Amerikans were scared of Commie-bastards, we moved the holiday from May 1st, lest it get confused with the god-less heathens of the world. (Ok, I kid here, but not much.)

Columbus Day: Forgotten holiday memorializing the fact that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492” (that rhymes!) and found America, by accident. In some parts of Amerika this day is not celebrated, but rather is protested by Native Americans who forget how much White Man has done to Improve Their Lot in Life. One might say that they seem ungrateful for all the sacrifices White Man have made on their behalf.

Election Day: Hmmmm… Most states don’t allow bars to open while elections are in progress. Not really a day of celebration — especially in 2004.

Veteran’s Day: Why not remember those who fought for the country? Well… served in the Armed Forces, regardless of whether or not they fought for the country (See WWII, WWI, Korea), or in the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. Lisa Simpson once got in an argument with Bart over this and Memorial Day.

Other holidays: Apologies all around — the fact that you are forgotten probably says something about you.

We have too many.

Anyway, on to Thanksgiving Day which was, according to a recently received Greeting Card, established to celebrate the fact that the pilgrims had finally moved away from their relatives.

The first Thanksgiving was, theoretically, a harvest celebration by the first pilgrims who had moved from the United Kingdom to Massachusetts in order to escape religious persecution. (Ironically today one might consider the reverse move for a similar purpose.) The poor pilgrims had arrived in North America ill-equipped for its climate, bugs, and natives.

Fortunately for the pilgrims, the nearby natives were not hostile (although they were not yet saved — funny enough, those who moved to escape religious persecution were quick to persecute in the early years). The natives helped the pilgrims figure out what to plant (probably how to plant — natives from this era are always very wise and friendly, as opposed to the natives from the 1800s who were out to scalp White Man and burn down their houses–of course later natives had figured out the ways of White Man and responded accordingly.).

Anyway, anybody who made it through all the clauses and sub-clauses of the previous paragraph, as well as the parenthetical comments, congratulations–you’ve probably also that I never really completed my initial thought.

Shame on me.

Anyhow, the pilgrims got their bountiful harvest into storage, went hunting for birds, and then invited the nearby natives to share in a feast and to Thank God for the bountiful harvest. (Of course, one likes to imagine that they thanked the nice natives who provided the more immediate help, in addition to the Lord, who was probably a bit too busy with other issues to stop by and offer practical advice like, “Plant Maize, it’s good for you and one can either eat it on the ear, off the ear, or popped.”)

The bird they ate, we like to think, was turkey.

In any case, we don’t actually know when the first Thanksgiving was, or even where it was. Theory holds that it might have been as early as 1619, and the first documented Thanksgiving was in 1621.

The actual establishment of Thanksgiving in the States is a bit less clear. It was declared by various governors, and occasionally by presidents from the establishment of the union in 1776 through 1863. In 1863 President Lincoln firmly established the holiday on a Thursday in late November — usually the last.

At this point the President’s role must be described: The President pardons a Turkey. Each year the President of the United States is given a Turkey which he then Pardons (one of the President’s powers is to pardon convicted prisoners, and the Turkey is thought to be condemned to death until Pardoned). It then is sent to an idyllic farm to live out the rest of its life naturally. Apparently President Bush is a bit leery of the Turkey pardoning ceremony now. He was apparently pecked once, so I am not going to blame him when he holds the turkey by its neck at a distance.

Anyhow, the actual holiday is now set at the 4th Thursday in November for… dare I say it… commercial reasons.

You see, once upon a time, it was considered uncouth to market Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving was celebrated. Back in those olden times, one could safely wander in a Sears store the day before Thanksgiving and have no clue that Christmas was even on the calendar. Of course, times have changed, and with the coming of your nearby Wal-Mart Super-sleazy-job-draining-community-busting-local-economy-draining-center (ASDA for you British Folk) it is now possible to buy a fully wired with lights Christmas Tree in the snowy and cold month of… August. (I saw them for sale last August in Bloomington, but at K-Mart, not Wal-Mart. K-Mart is slightly more upscale that the other place.)

Real Americas continue, thankfully, to ignore the existence of Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

But, before I forget the purpose of this email, Thanksgiving… the modern version.

It is a family holiday, meaning that large extended families fly all over the States in order to be “home” in time for the Turkey Dinner … oh wait— forget the Turkey Dinner.

Thanksgiving is all about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Little kids (and grown up Fags) all get up early in the morning to watch the balloons go down Broadway (see what the celebrities are wearing) past the Macy’s Department Store. Eventually Santa Claus arrives and little kids go wild (and fags dish about clothing some more).

Next Thanksgiving is all about the Turkey Dinner… oh wait, there’s more…

Thanksgiving is all about FOOTBALL!!!! American Football, none of that Pansy-Soccer-Bullshit! Manly men knocking each other about! Every Thanksgiving two teams host a traditional bout of football: The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. I dunno why this started, but I am sure that housewives all over Detroit and Dallas are either thankful or cursing this turn of events.

Anyhow, Thanksgiving is all about the Turkey Dinner… and the STUFFING. Not that stuffing is actually stuffed anymore, but the most important part of Thanksgiving Dinner is the traditional stuffing, which, once upon a time, was stuffed in the bird while the bird roasted. Anymore, one makes several tons of stuffing, and hopes that there will be leftovers, but you are usually resigned to knowing that the stuffing will be all gone, but that there will be enough turkey left over to ensure several months of Turkey-based meals: Turkey-a-la-king, Turkey Surprise, Turkey Stew, Turkey-well, you get the idea.

One of the more traditional aspects of Thanksgiving is the Family Argument, although in some families, it is more of the Annual Disaster. It is tradition in some families for people to argue over something during the meal–and for somebody to get really upset and leave in tears. This isn’t very pleasant, so one must hope that you usually have an Annual Disaster. If your family is lucky the Annual Disaster, while traumatic to the family, is humorously minor–say, the cooked turkey bounces down the stairs and into the kitty litter box. Some families engage in the Deep Fat Fried Annual Disaster, which operates under the theory that if Deep Fat Frying French Fries is a good idea, it must be a good idea to drop something large and heavy in a vat of boiling oil. Houses have been known to burn down, in which case the Annual Disaster really is a major disaster.

I won’t say which camp my family falls under–but I will say that I have had my share of personal Thanksgiving disasters. Who could forget last year when I cooked a Turkey in Amsterdam and broiled it instead of baking it!

After Thanksgiving Dinner, the next most important point of the weekend, is that amongst traditionalists, Christmas Shopping beings Friday morning. While Friday newspapers are filled with adverts for stuff, Saturday newspapers are generally filled pictures of people getting crushed in the massive herds that storm the doors of the stores the split second they open.

Anyhow, that is my take on Thanksgiving… a very nice holiday, indeed…

Although after reading my description, I’m not so sure.

2 comments to Thanksgiving

  • IUMike

    One thing you don’t comment on is the political significance of holidays. Several were blatantly developed and recognized by city politicians to appeal to new immigrant voters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (e.g. Columbus Day for Italian-Americans, St. Patrick’s Day for Irish-Americans). Thanksgiving is not quite in this category, but still has much political significance. It was first recognized officially by Abraham Lincoln. It has evolved into something symbolically important about the significance of the American family.

  • MT

    Ah … the card arrived. 😉

    No one in our family flies all over to be home for Turkey Day. We have Given Up on the family thing. However, I am making a Big Ass Turkey because it is a tradition. However, I won’ be throwing the Big Ass Turkey down the stairs like my stepmother once did. 😉

    Which reminds me, I’ll probably have to get up at 3 a.m. to start cooking the Big Ass Turkey, which I will stuff in spite of all warnings about the Dangers of Turkey Stuffing. If we can’t live dangerously, what’s the point? It’s like eating raw oysters. The risk makes it fun. LOL!