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November 24, 2010

Thanksgivings’ Traditions – Past and Present

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Today, historians bicker over when and where the first Thanksgiving took place in America; and pundits opine upon its meaning. According to some, the roots of our American Thanksgiving tradition began when 102 Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, in July 1620 to escape religious persecution.


They came to the New World as illegal immigrants and founded a colony of their own so that they could practice their beliefs without fear of retribution, and to be free to persecute others who don’t believe as they do or speak their language.


But essentially they wanted to practice their religion without government interference, and since the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) did not exist at the time, they were allowed to do so.


Since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) did not exist at the time, they were able to travel freely without surrendering all their personal freedoms and sense of privacy, or being degraded, humiliated and treated like common criminals simply because they wanted to travel.


Older pilgrims in wheelchairs and children arrived safely without being strip-searched or harassed.


No one suffered post-traumatic TSA syndrome at the prying hands of an overbearing, self-important under-trained government employee tragically deficient in customer relations skills, looking for weapons of mass destruction such deviously hidden containers of yogurt, hand cream, toothpaste, sippy cups of water, or the deadly fingernail clippers and errant book of matches or butane lighter.


In 1621, the grim New England pilgrims celebrated a feast of thanksgiving by giving thanks to God after a successful harvest. Most of all they celebrated that the government at the time did not tell them what they could eat – or not eat. And, at the time, no one belittled them for their success or tried to confiscate their hard-earned good fortune.


Of course, today, any celebration of hard work, success, or God has been systematically removed from public discourse and replaced by a greater conversation as to why our great country has lost its moral bearings and sense of work ethic.


The previous winter of 1620-21 proved to be harsh for the pilgrims as only 50 of the 102 original travelers survived.


Although the local native Wampanoag Indians immediately passed a resolution that the illegal immigrants learn the Wampanoag language, other more broad-minded Native-Americans helped keep the surviving pilgrims from perishing.


In return “the pilgrims showed their gratitude by giving the natives Bibles, gunpowder, alcohol, and smallpox. There was happiness all around,” according to a thoughtful dissertation on Thanksgiving by Dan Porter.


Later, as the New England colonists continued to annex Wampanoag land and build housing developments, the King Philip's War erupted 1675–76 and the colonists exterminated the Native Americans and seized the rest of their lands.


Today, the tradition of King Philip’s War is re-enacted in the form of public hearings in which the personal character and integrity of those engaged in free speech is exterminated and all rules of civility seized.


A number of years ago, Washington Post writer Joel Achenback characterized that everyone's goal when designing the contemporary Thanksgiving feast is drama, and excitement…


“It's not a meal – it’s a performance. You don't have dinner guests, you have witnesses. Everyone who leaves the table at the end of the feast must be not only satiated, but also emotionally spent.”


In my extended family, we have some vegetarians. Having family members who are vegetarians is a great concept and every family ought to have as many as possible. It means that much more turkey to go around.


For Thanksgiving dinner, we will be delighted to serve our vegetarian family members roasted pinecones in a béarnaise sauce, a side plate of dandelion greens in a fat-free raspberry pureed dressing, some anorexic carrots, and squash that tastes like spiced mud, topped with mulch.


If you plan to do your own cooking this Thanksgiving, according to Dave Barry, “your first step is to calculate how much turkey you need.”


If you are not familiar with Mr. Barry, he has written for The Miami Herald since 1983 and is a Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary. He writes about issues ranging from the international economy to exploding toilets. Alas, he is the source of all of my cutting-edge information.


Sometime around the time he wrote “A Waist Is a Terrible Thing to Mind,” Mr. Barry called to our attention:


“Home economists tell us that the average 155-pound person consumes 1.5 pounds of turkey, so if you're planning to have 14 relatives for dinner, you'd simply multiply 14 times 1.5 times 155, which means your turkey should weigh, let's see, carry the two ... 3,255 pounds.


“If you can't find a turkey that size, you should call up selected relatives and explain to them, in a sensitive and diplomatic manner, that they can't come because they weigh too much.”


Mr. Barry suggests “a frozen turkey at the supermarket” for Thanksgiving. “The Turkey Manufacturers Association recommends that, before you purchase a frozen bird, you check it for firmness by test-dropping it on the supermarket floor – it should bounce three vertical inches per pound – and then take a core sample of the breast by drilling into it with a 3/8-inch masonry bit until you strike the giblets.


“If supermarket employees attempt to question you, the Turkey Manufacturers Association recommends that you gesture at them with the drill in a reassuring manner.”


Hopefully your Thanksgiving will be full of smiles and laughs, family and friends – and plenty of good food.


And as we gather with our families over a Thanksgiving meal, please remember our firefighters, police officers and men and women in uniform, who are in harm’s way, defending our freedom to enjoy this great country.


For this Thanksgiving – hopefully - we can join together in the compassionate support of our fellow citizens who are less fortunate. Let us reach out with care to those in need of food, shelter, and words of hope.


Happy halidaze! Please remember to place a lemon slice in the dog's water bowl.


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