Thanksgiving is a patriotic holiday, sandwiched as it is between Veterans Day and the “official” beginning of the Christmas Shopping season.
I’ll come back to the sandwiches.
Everyone not living under a rock knows that Thanksgiving Day is America’s primary pagan festival, celebrated to show thanks, gratitude, and love to the gods for a bountiful harvest on a New England day that fields have been barren for weeks and are now mostly covered in snow. This holiday has moved away from its religious roots and is now a time to participate in the largest single slaughter of fowl in the universe.
Here in the States, we mark Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Our Canadian neighbors celebrated it six weeks earlier, on the second Monday in October. The snow falls earlier on Canada’s by-then barren fields. We saw one of those neigbors at the Kmart yesterday, looking for a potato masher. She was pleased to get two thanksgiving meals; she was less pleased to cook two thanksgiving meals.
Our collective memory of the holiday is sort of wrong. In American as Pumpkin Pie, Plimoth Plantation tells us that
Prior to the mid-1800s, Thanksgiving had nothing to do with the 1621 harvest celebration, Pilgrims, or older immigrants. Thanksgiving started as a traditional New England holiday that celebrated family and community. It descended from Puritan days of fasting and festive rejoicing. The governor of each colony or state declared a day of thanksgiving each autumn, to give thanks for general blessings. As New Englanders moved west in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they took their holiday with them. After the harvest, governors across the country proclaimed individual Thanksgivings, and families traveled back to their original homes for family reunions, church services and large meals.
I expect to have a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal this year, whether I cook it myownself or drive over to the Cracked Conch with Nancy and Joe and Willie and maybe Ed if he makes it back from Provo. We’ll have a small turkey with bread (not oyster, thank you very much) stuffing, cranberry sauce, smashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cole slaw, and pumpkin pie for dessert.
That basic menu has remained unchanged for a couple hundred years but that’s all the older our menu is. The three-day pig-out of 1621 at Plymouth (the “First Thanksgiving”) may have had ducks or geese, but yes they had no potatoes, and bananas were equally scarce. No apples. And no pumpkin pie. Likely no turkeys who were wily even then.
I don’t care. I shall have pah.
I AM a lucky boy lucky. My family is scattered across a couple thousand miles but we are all speaking to each other. Anne’s broken leg is healing. My island house value sank a little more so my future property taxes may be lower and I did not get four inches of snow yesterday. The insurance company finally decided I really should have had collision coverage and paid the shop. Next week, I shall have white meat turkey sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise on good crunchy sourdough bread for lunch every day of the week. Most important, I have been blessed by friends.
People decorate for Halloween and for Armistice or Remembrance Day and for Christmas but Thanksgiving, not so much.
Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be America’s bird so I’m thankful to have found a big inflatable turkey in a local yard for this week.