35 4 mins 14 yrs

Over here in the U.S.A. President Bush pardoned a turkey yesterday in advance of our nation’s observance of the holiday of Thanksgiving this Thursday.  Unlike former President Clinton, he did not seek a campaign contribution for the pardon.  In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d provide a little insight into the this American holiday for my friends across the sea.  An American holiday, as our Canadian neighbors also celebrate it (in October which must be due to the damned French influence to be contrary).

Thanksgiving at its core is an opportunity to give thanks at the conclusion of the harvest.   Of course, the closest most of us get to the harvest is the fresh vegetable section of the supermarket, but we are thankful none the less. 

The first Thanksgiving actually happened in Virginia around 1619, and was started by British Immigrants (wouldn’t learn the language, held to their own customs, etc).  The more famous feasting was a couple years later by the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, when the land was free of strip malls, highways and Kennedys.  The Pilgrims wanted to give thanks for their harvest, and invited the local American Indians in what would prove to be the high water mark of White-Indian relations for the next few centuries (until we gave the casinos).  Squanto, an American Indian who taught them to plant corn and interpreted for them to the native population, was an honored guest.   This mix of cultures and races sitting down and eating a hearty meal as part of celebrating God’s bounty serves as the nation’s signature holiday. 

Although Thanksgiving proclamations were made by George Washington and later President, it was Lincoln (the Republican) who declared it a Federal Holiday and Roosevelt (the Democrat) who made it the fourth Thursday in November – an example of bipartisan creative genius.

We Yanks will be gorging our already large bodies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, peas, rolls and pumpkin pie.  No gifts are exchanged -a pleasant and oddly uncommercial tradition -threatened by Black Friday the day after in which the women of the land are felled by a shopping fever like some Biblical plague.   Perhaps, it is their revenge for the orgy of football watching on the holiday itself by the male of the species.

It is a family holiday in which we gather together.  Heads are bowed for what may be an annual rite only in some homes, the saying of grace – giving thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon us and for allowing us to be together.  The person who invokes the prayer may be the youngest or the oldest, or someone of particular eloquence.  My short "The Devil Sucks, let’s eat" effort  as a teenager was considered a low point in in the family annals.  We take note of family members no longer with us, and those who could not make it, and those who could.  Whatever setbacks the prior year might have brought, we still are thankful for what we’ve had and what we share and our hopes for the future. 

In that spirit, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to the ATW readers and posters, wherever you may be and whatever beliefs you may hold.       

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  1. Thanks Mahons. I saw where the pilgrims landed in Cape Cod when I was there in July. And where the Kennedys still (?) disport themselves.

  2. "I celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. This may surprise those people who wonder what Native Americans think of this official U.S. celebration of the survival of early arrivals in a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people.

    Thanksgiving to me has never been about Pilgrims. I see, in the "First Thanksgiving" story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

    Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

    Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

    And the healing can begin".

    Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux. Her work has appeared in Winds of Change, an American Indian journal.

  3. Hi Laurel: Jacqueline Keeler reminds me of Ward Churchill.

    He was the "Indian" who wrote books about the genocide of "his" people. Originally from Illinois, he worked in a university dept for affirmative action before claiming Indian ancestry and getting a teaching job because the University wanted "diversity."

    Churchill claimed ancestry from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.The United Keetoowah Band said that he wasn’t actually one of them, just an "honorary associate member"

    One of his articles spread an unproven rumor that Indians were deliberately killed by the smallpox blankets given to them by the Europeans. There is no proof or even indication that this happened.

    He was fired for plagiarism and poor scholarship.

  4. Laurel: Jacqueline Keeler (Dartmouth ’93 – something tells me her "native food" is more likely pizza than maize) is entitled to her opinion and may celebrate or not as she sees fit. But I for one am not going to let her rain (or do a raindance) on my parade.

    I’d suggest Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and especially The Long Death by Ralph Andrist (spelling?) as wonderful books if one wants to read about the history of the American Indian. Both of those authors focus on the history without descending into aggresive victimhood. I’d further recommend Blue Highways a wonderful modern narrative of a personal exploration of the heart of the US by William Least Heat Moon.

    But while I would gladly concede the difficult and often tragic history of the American Indian, I will not wallow in it wearing sacks and ashcloths. This holiday is for everyone here, and if some chose not to celebrate and to protest instead, well protest is a revered American pastime as well.

  5. Well – that wasn’t too bad, Mahons. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

    It is my understanding, based on the propaganda fed to me as a child, that the newcomers would never have survived if it hadn’t been for the Natives helping them out. They planned a feast in thanksgiving with the people who had so generously saved their sorry skins.

    In a Seattle school district they have made Thanksgiving into a day of mourning. I, for one, will not celebrate in that vein! I will stuff my mouth with Turkey, potatoes and pie and include in my prayer a thankfulness for being an American. In fact, I had better git. The girlies and I are making the pie crusts from scratch this year.

    Have a beautiful holiday, all!

  6. >>Over here in the U.S.A. President Bush pardoned a turkey yesterday <<

    You mean he’s going to bring back Karl Rove?

  7. Patty,

    I think its unwise to dismiss the relevance of disease. Yes its hyperbole to suggest it was a deliberate policy but i havent read that she has.

    Trail of Tears: Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation is also excellent.

  8. Mahons: I wasn’t protesting. I was protesting the protest. Not as eloquently as you, but with the same intent.(seriously)

    Didn’t know you’d be back. Sorry if you think I rained on your parade.

    You’re always so quick with a nasty word for me. I’m sorry I bother to even comment on your posts frankly. Won’t make the same mistake twice. Delete my 4:51 if you’re so inclined.

  9. Patty: The "And to you too Patty" was a belated reply to your "Have a Happy Thanksgiving". By which I meant to wish you a happy Thanksgiving as well. Sincerely, happy thoughts, happy thoughts!! No nasty things intended (perhaps the placement in the thread was confusing?).

  10. Oh…man, that’s embarrassing…sorry. So sorry for overreacting.
    It was the placement.

    Obviously a wake-up call for me to start drinking early and heavily throughout the holiday season! (kidding)

  11. Patty – No worries. And while I can not advocate heavy drinking as a way of life it has always worked for me (Thank you Hunter S. Thompson).

  12. I love the idea of Thanksgiving. A genuine wholesome and heartfelt celebration of the blessings of life. We could do with that over here. Thanks for the post Mahons. I wish all our American regulars a wonderful day whoever you spend it with .

  13. Nice post Mahons. I think its great that posts explore issues and share knowledge – in particular about days and events in our respective calendars that are important to our cultures and our heritage – and that we attend to them the respect and admiration they deserve, here on Thanksgiving and with our Remembrance Week for example. It isnt always true to say that because we share the same language we understand what these special days mean/history etc, Thanks for the insight. Have a good break.

  14. Mahons

    You write very well, and pieces like this are the proof.

    Thanksgiving is the uniquely north American holiday. I appreciate it more every year.

  15. Alison: I am counting on someone over there to explain Boxing Day to me. Thanks.

    Phantom: I’ve read your blog and your great sense on the Balrog smackdowns so I raise a Thanksgiving Toast to your efforts as well.

  16. And a Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow dogs of ATW! I agree Mahons that you out did yourself with this post. I think TG is my favorite holiday, simple, pure, and unadulterated. And like you say, I pity the Jets in Dallas tomorrow!

  17. Mahons

    Sorry to dissapoint you but Boxing Say is nothing really. It is literally just the day after Christmas. another bank holiday, it signifies nothing special. The name apparently comes from the practise in wealthy households of giving little thank you goodie boxes to servants in gratitude of their hard work over Christmas.

  18. Mahons; Will do. Some fascinating anecdotes about Christmas in London and traditions that date way back. Just as long as its met with a little respect from across the Pond Im happy (and proud) to supply any stuff on our culture and heritage that you would enjoy.

  19. Charles – Oh Yes! The Cowboys are going to put some whup ass on those lousy Jets!!

    I like Thanksgiving the best too. Good food, good family, and good football.

  20. Mahons,

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family. And a special Happy Thanksgiving to all you Yanks outside America today. It’s the worst day of the year for us, but you have make some effort to acknowledge the day.

  21. Eagle: And to you too.

    Charles: Dallas couldn’t fnd a weaker adversary if they played the Helen Keller School fo the Blind.

    Colm: Thanks for the info. I had hoped it involved actual boxers.

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