Thanksgiving traditions misunderstood

By Michael Howlett

November 27, 2013

Well, tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day, and we all know what that means; the women will work themselves to death cooking, men will sit on their bums and either sleep or watch football, little kids will wreak havoc before being told to go outside despite sub-zero temperatures, and Randall will sneak off with his new girlfriend in hopes of stuffing something besides turkey. Yes, a truly joyous day.

For a lot of people the Thanksgiving Day celebration starts the night before, and I’m not talking about stuffing. No, I’m talking about drinking. The night before Thanksgiving is the single biggest day for bar sales in the United States. That’s right, not even New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl Sunday or St. Patrick’s Day can touch the amount of alcohol consumed on Thanksgiving Eve.

You may ask why this is so. Well, there are several reasons, with two of them being Uncle Ralph and Aunt Edna. It’s good to dull your senses before spending a day with these two since Ralph likes to regale everyone with his endless war stories and Edna gets quite touchy with all the young men after she’s had her “medicine.” The more of a haze you’re in, the better.

Another fact to know about Thanksgiving is that there is no evidence that Pilgrims ate turkey on the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621. The best account of that historic day says Pilgrims and Native Americans ate “wild fowl.” Now, this could mean duck, geese, pheasant or whatever that putrid animal was that Prudence dished out. In addition, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes were also right out, while pumpkin pie didn’t show up until the second Thanksgiving.

Now, everyone thinks Thanksgiving has always been celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Not so. In the early years of our country, several people wanted to have an official day of thanksgiving, including George Washington, who proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. You know who didn’t want a Thanksgiving Day? Thomas Jefferson, that’s who. Although Thomas Jefferson was very interested in stuffing, he was totally against a national Thanksgiving Day. He, in fact, described the concept of Thanksgiving as “the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.” Then he went back to his stuffing.

However, starting with Abraham Lincoln, every president has proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day, although the dates did sometimes change. In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November to lengthen the holiday shopping season. This did not sit well with the people so it was moved back to the fourth Thursday. It was also in 1941, that Thanksgiving became an official national holiday.

Right after turkey in Thanksgiving lore is an extravaganza known as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which started in 1924. Now, those giant balloons didn’t come along until 1927 when Goodyear came up with a Felix the Cat, king of the cartoon realm at the time. Mickey Mouse didn’t make his first appearance until 1934.

However, what those first three parades had were much better … live animals. Parade organizers borrowed animals from the Central Park Zoo, which seemed like a good idea at the time. However, once giant balloons came along, the wild animals were fired; a move that dramatically lowered the death toll during the parade.

One other note, the first Thanksgiving lasted for three days, yes, three days. Can you imagine the hell of a three-day Thanksgiving? I can only say thank God we’re down to one day. Three days of Uncle Ralph’s stories and Aunt Edna’s groping is more than anyone can stand, even if you are in a haze from a drunken binge from the night before.