Make Thanksgiving Great Again
November Men's Room column
If the same old generic, commercialized Thanksgiving is good enough for your family, then read no further. This article isn’t for you.
If, on the other hand, you’re tired of the typical paint-by-numbers Thanksgiving and want to celebrate in a style that’s more authentic, more historically accurate, and more likely to have your friends on social media anxiously second-guessing how they celebrate the holiday, then by all means, read on.
First off, as you’re currently reading the November issue of WILMA, one opportunity for historical accuracy has passed you by. The first Thanksgiving (you know, the one in Plymouth in 1621) was in October. Mark your calendar for next year.
Why, then, do we celebrate Thanksgiving in November? You’ll have to ask Lincoln who declared the last Thursday in November a national day of thanksgiving. FDR temporarily pushed it up a week during the Depression to expand the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy. Apparently, Americans used to wait until after Thanksgiving to begin Christmas shopping. How quaint.
So, for a more authentic celebration this year, postpone your Thanksgiving celebration a week. You won’t have the day off, your extended family won’t attend, and all the good turkeys will be gone, but who said authenticity comes cheap?
Next, when considering a truly traditional Thanksgiving locale, there’s just one word to remember: squatters. In 1621, the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth. Illegally. Their charter was for Virginia, but storms blew them to New England just as the Mayflower was running out of food. They settled on the remains of a Patuxet village complete with stores of corn and beans. The Pilgrims helped themselves to the food, figuring the Patuxet wouldn’t need it since they’d all died from smallpox brought by English slavers in 1617.
While it’s impossible to replicate the Pilgrims’ locale, don’t let that stop you from celebrating in a way true to the spirit of the first Thanksgiving. You could, for example, break into your neighbor’s house (the ones whose pressure washer you borrowed three years ago and never returned) while they’re away and have your meal there. Be sure to help yourself to canned goods from their pantry.
For the Pilgrims, the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of a bountiful harvest after the previous year’s “starving time,” when half the settlers died from scurvy, pneumonia, and starvation. Things got so rough that some historians speculate that human remains were consumed.
For Americans today, however, the holiday eating season starts late on October 31 (when we gorge on the remains of our children’s Halloween candy), then continues for two full months of fat, carbs, and sugar.
An authentic Thanksgiving celebration should involve a long, miserable fast (or at least an unpleasant diet – like no bacon, for example) leading up to the big day.
Three days, actually. That’s how long the first Thanksgiving lasted. And, by most accounts, the Pilgrims were outnumbered two-to-one by guests who neither spoke their language nor worshiped the same god. So, for an authentic American Thanksgiving, be sure to plan your agenda and guest list accordingly.
Dylan Patterson is a writer and filmmaker who teaches English at Cape Fear Community College.
To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to markweberart.blogspot.com.
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