Learning about Your History

About a month ago I was contacted by one of the magazines I write for. They wanted an article on Thanksgiving. If you could make it funny that would be great. Most kids find it sort of boring.

There’s nothing like learning a lot more about a holiday you have been celebrating for 47 years. Here are some things I learned.

The very fact that Thanksgiving is even a holiday is due to one woman named Sara Josepha Hale. She pestered five presidents over 17 years until she finally got Abraham Lincoln to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. I suppose Lincoln had other things to worry about, what with the country at war with itself and coming apart at the seams. She also wrote Mary had a Little Lamb. And, as we see, she had some serious perseverance.

A Thanksgiving dinner is made up of all things indigenous to North America. Turkey, corn, cranberries, potatoes (both russet and sweet), turkey, and though it’s delicious the waistline isn’t too happy about the 4,500 calories it staples to your stomach and rump.

Black. Black. Brown. Everyone knows the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, as we all see the internet videos of legions of sociopaths beating each other senseless over a blender. The etymological story goes that most companies spend the bulk of the year without making a profit (in the red) but on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year and the unofficial kick off to the Christmas shopping season, they finally make a profit (in the black). Hence, Black Friday. This is largely fiction and a typical capitalistic spinning of the origin. Evidently, it was called Black Friday by employers to refer to their employees calling in sick on that Friday in order to sneakily obtain a four day weekend. It was also called Black Friday by police officers in Philadelphia to describe the shopping crowds downtown.

But the days before and after Turkey Day are affiliated with colors depending on one’s employment. The day before Thanksgiving is called Black Wednesday by bar workers because it’s the busiest bar day of the year. The day after Thanksgiving is called Brown Friday by the plumbers of North America, as it’s their busiest day of the year too. Evidently the Thanksgiving dinner multiplied by twelve drunken family members, and that one sibling who’s pissed off to be at the kid’s table, is not too good on the old pooper. We can imagine the plumbers’ job that Friday and all agree that their…duties are worth the time and a half they get.

The original Thanksgiving story is that the pilgrims thanking the Wampanoag, Samoset, and Squanto for helping them get through a trying time. However, it seems that the pilgrims were only making dinner for themselves and then, as good Americans, fired off some guns when they had a few celebratory drinks in them. The local tribespeople figured there was a war on and dressed up for battle. When they showed up for a fight they were surprised to find a feast and were hastily invited to join. They might have felt like an invite afterthought, but they were probably hungry and plus having dinner and beer was better than getting killed in a battle. Thus, Thanksgiving.

Oh, and that dinner was cooked by the only 4 pilgrim women to survive the awful winter of 1620-21. So much for gender equality, eh?

The tradition of American presidents pardoning a turkey really starts with George HW Bush, but was also done by Kennedy and Nixon. Also, Calvin Coolidge was gifted a raccoon for Thanksgiving dinner in 1926, but gave it to a zoo instead. Though one wonders if Thanksgiving would be so looked forward to if raccoon was served. I’d be fine as long as there was mashed potatoes, but I’d probably shy away from that stuffing.

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