We’d Always Have Walking Bird on Thanksgiving, with All the Trimmings

Ah, Thanksgiving. Perhaps the lamest of the holidays that we commonly celebrate here in the United States. As I mentioned last year, it’s basically a harvest festival, but the specifically American story of the First Thanksgiving involves dissenters from the Church of England who sailed to what is now Massachusetts. They settled in the village of Patuxet, which was conveniently empty because all of its residents had died of disease. One of the Patuxet, a man named Squanto, had been taken to England to be a slave, but was eventually freed and made his way back home, only to find that everyone he knew had died.

He apparently also learned that it was good a idea to pack heat when dealing with the white man.

Since he spoke English, he was able to serve as an ombudsman between the colonists and the Wampanoag who lived in the area. The first Thanksgiving in 1621 (probably not actually the first celebrated on the American continent, by the way) celebrated the cooperation between the Europeans and the Native Americans, and is now commemorated in elementary school classrooms by having some of the kids wear paper Pilgrim hats, and the others paper feathered headbands. Or at least that was the case when I was in elementary school.
Looks like these kids are having a blast, huh?

Over the years, however, it’s come to be less about harvests and cooperation, and more about being forced to see relatives when you’d really rather not. The casual name for Thanksgiving is Turkey Day, even though it has nothing to do with the nation of Turkey, founded in 1923. No, seriously, the birds are apparently called turkeys because the first Europeans to see them confused them with guineafowl, which were imported into Europe by way of Turkey. Let’s hear it for mistaken identity!

Hey, they can’t attack us! They’re part of NATO!

The day after Thanksgiving has come to be known as Black Friday, allegedly because it’s when retailers start to get back into the black in terms of profits. While this may be true, I have to suspect that the name has darker connotations. The day is celebrated by orgies of chaos in retail outlets across the country, in which people trample each other in their quest for apparently meaningless tokens. My best guess is that this is an ancient ritual in honor of some long-forgotten dark god, which is still performed annually despite the fact that nobody remembers why. No one seems to do anything to prevent it, either, which must mean the ceremony is casually accepted by a society that normally thrives on law and order. There are dark forces at work here, and delving too far into its terrible origins has been known to drive great minds mad.

Dread Cthulhu rises from the sunken city of Rl’yeh, so he can get his tentacles on amazing bargains!

This entry was posted in Colonization of America, Historical Personages, History, Holidays, Thanksgiving and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to We’d Always Have Walking Bird on Thanksgiving, with All the Trimmings

  1. Just as I know I have every other year, I still respectfully disagree with you about the lameness of Thanksgiving! It is still my second-favorite holiday so [sound of tongue sticking out]. Suppose that’s not “respectfully.” Oh well.

  2. vilajunkie says:

    I don’t consider it lame either. That would have to go to the “holidays” like Sweetest Day (it’s Valentine’s Day, but for married folks!), Secretary Appreciation Day (or whatever it’s called), and, here in Illinois/Chicago, Casmir Pulaski Day (an observational day for some Polish-born veteran from Chicago, I think, who no one remembers or cares about and the day is just an excuse to have school off–because no one gets St. Patrick’s Day off even though it’s infinitely more popular and better celebrated). Anyway, I do like how everyone these days assumes the Pilgrims and the Natives got along wonderfully for the rest of history because of the first “Thanksgiving” and that everything we eat now was exactly what the Pilgrims ate. Heck, we know the Pilgrims ate some kind of fowl during Thanksgiving, but it was probably duck or pheasant rather than turkey (and turkeys back then were a lot skinnier and tougher than any today). And they certainly didn’t have Pillsbury crescent rolls with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! spread, but hard lumps made from corn meal and/or whatever wheat was left over on their ship.

    Yeah, Black Friday certainly does seem like it would be the perfect theme for a Lovecraft or Discworld story about Eldritch Abominations. ;)

    • Nathan says:

      I guess I was just referring to holidays that are important in the general American culture, which those other days aren’t so much. I’m sure there could be debate on which holidays these are, but I think Thanksgiving is definitely in a totally different caliber than Sweetest Day. I guess where it gets kind of tricky is with days like Labor Day, which is celebrated throughout the country but doesn’t really have any symbolism or ritual associated with it.

      I do think the Thanksgiving story as taught in the schools is a good example of whitewashing American history. If we talk about Squanto and not the Trail of Tears, it makes it sound like relations with the Indians were just hunky-dory!

      • vilajunkie says:

        Labor Day does have the meaningless superstition about not wearing white shoes after Labor Day, but I guess today it’s not really anything anyone really believes, like if you step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back.

        The Trail of Tears really is neglected in teaching American history. I chose it as my research project in college, and I couldn’t find a detailed, complete history of it. Even Wikipedia was sparse! The books I found on that period of American history had anything from a single paragraph to a page and a half (with pictures relevant to the topics before and after but not actually referring to the Trail of Tears). Maybe I was looking in the wrong place. Maybe I should have been looking in the sociology sections–the 100s and early 200s, right?–or in a biography of Andrew Jackson.

      • Nathan says:

        I think John Waters still holds to the rule about not wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

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