The wild turkeys are back. I have yet to see them, but someone submitted a photo of the large native American birds cruising through a northwest Great Bend neighborhood.
They were just hanging out, strutting along, minding their turkey business.
Seeing these magnificent birds really put me in a Thanksgiving mood, that is until I got home and turned on the television to a blitz of glitzy and annoying holiday commercials. Stores have been selling Christmas since before Halloween.
In fact, Halloween and Thanksgiving have almost been elbowed out of the calendar by Madison Avenue like some obnoxious relative who hogs the conversation at the “big peoples’ table” with talk of his colonoscopy (come on, we all know someone like this).
I would almost rather stand in line outside a store at dawn (more about this later) or watch a ridiculous reality show (“Dancing with the Singing Survivors”) than endure these advertisements.
So, I thought it fitting and proper to try and slow things down a tad and cast a light on Thanksgiving, if just for a moment.
According to our grade school teachers, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. Legend has it the feast lasted three days.
They didn’t have turkey (they ate goose and shell fish).
They didn’t have football (I guess, if you are a Chiefs fan, you don’t have football now either).
They only had a few casks of home-brewed ale.
They didn’t have Black Friday sales to look forward to.
So, I ask you, what kind of a holiday could it have possibly been? That must have been a long three days.
The celebration was supposedly attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The whites were outnumbered nearly two to one. It’s a good thing those Native Americans had yet to hear of Gen. George Custer or Wounded Knee.
On the plus side, those crazy Pilgrims didn’t have inane television jingles that butcher classic Christmas carols (“Deck the malls with lots of savings ...”).
They didn’t have Santa Claus peddling Mercedes Benzes.
They didn’t have mushy Lifetime Network holiday movies (“Wishing for a White Christmas Miracle Angel in Some Small Quaint New England Town, You Know, One that Looks Like it Came out of a Cheesy Thomas Kinkade Painting”).
They didn’t have Black Friday sales. I mentioned this earlier, but it also falls here if you are a guy whose wife is begging you to stand with her in long, dark, cold lines outside some big box store at 5 a.m.
The New England colonists were devout Christians and accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings” – days of prayer thanking God for blessings. However, the first Thanksgiving was likely not a religious observation. Remember, they were lucky to be alive and did have some alcohol – spring break, Puritan style.
Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November since it officially became a holiday in 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Apparently the thinking was that over eating of turkey might get the nation’s mind off the fact that thousands of young men were dying to save the union.
Thanksgiving is also observed on the second Monday of October in Canada, the first Thursday of November in Liberia and the last Wednesday of November on Norfolk Island. Liberia is in Africa and Norfolk Island is in the South Pacific, somewhere near Australia, and I doubt they eat turkey in either of these places.
I suppose I really can’t complain about the early Christmas sales too much. My wife has been in the kitchen baking and cooking almost constantly, producing smoked turkeys, pumpkin pies and ginger cookies. I just have to spend more time on my bicycle or in the gym to burn off the lavish fare.
So, we all really do have something to thankful for – the food, the family, the nice weather, the fact that very few folks have inflatable Pilgrim yard decorations.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.