Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving - what's up with that?

So this year our family is doing Thanksgiving at my brother's place, but it comes at a price.  Most people dress up in costume for Halloween.  My brother has requested we do Thanksgiving in costume - it has been entitled "Fabulously Tacky Turkey Day".  Jealous?  You should be.  I have decided to go as Plymouth Rock.  After all, what could better commemorate the arrival of settlers, who would soon meet Native Americans and celebrate the first Thanksgiving together?  It was either that or smallpox.  I figured Plymouth Rock would be easier.

Well, this whole thing has gotten me to thinking about the real history of Thanksgiving.  Admittedly, history was not my favorite subject in elementary school.  From what I could remember of my early education, the Pilgrims came to America rather under-prepared, the Native Americans brought some food to the somber-looking white dudes, and everything was rainbows and succotash and smiles.

Since I'm now an adult and history is mildly more interesting to me, I hopped on over to the History channel website and searched "history of Thanksgiving".  Here's the synopsis:
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
So that's the short and simple version.  There are a few more items of interest.  I did remember the name "Squanto" from the history books.  Well, turns out he was a pretty interesting guy.  He had apparently previously been kidnapped and sold into slavery.  He escaped to London, and eventually made his way back on an exploratory expedition.  You'd think the man would be pretty bitter by that point, but he showed the Pilgrims how to plant crops and such.  Props to Squanto.

There is also controversy over whether this was the first "Thanksgiving" feast to be held.  There are other records of "feasts to give thanks" in 1565 and 1619.  I'm sure there are historical scholar types who argue vehemently for the 1565 feast in St. Augustine, Florida.  Sorry, history buffs.  Thanksgiving will always evoke images of Pilgrims and Indians.  I don't think the Spanish explorer edition will ever make grade school history books.  It's all rather the same to me anyway.

Fabulously Tacky Turkey Day promises to be a day of fun with my ridiculously goofy family, and planning for it has made me ponder things in my life that I am thankful for.  There are of course the big ones:  my family, my friends, my pets, a roof over my head, my health, religious freedom.  I do have a lot of other things to be thankful for..some serious, some just for fun.  My job.  My Hyundai.  Bunnies and guinea pigs.  Everyone who rescues animals.  My iPod.  Books.  Target.  Delicious food.  Music.  The ocean.  The Discovery Channel.  Harry Potter and Star Wars.  Dr. Pepper.  Contact lenses.  Humor.  Bunspace.  Facebook.  Chapstick.  Jason's Deli.  Lobster.  My aquarium and its inhabitants.  Art.  My Nintendo Wii.  My education.  The internet...without which this blog would not be possible!

So, to my fellow American readers, enjoy your holiday.  Treasure the time with your family and friends.  And to my readers everywhere, I hope you'll take a little bit of time to think about things for which you are thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving (next week)!

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