While it would seem Thanksgiving has become only a small rest area off the side of the consumerist expressway between Halloween and Christmas, I must admit that it is my favorite holiday. It is the last day of any year that Americans seem to keep their dignity, for after the tryptophan wears off, the masses assemble to fight over the last pair of red wool Santa Claus socks that have a 40 percent markdown atop of a 50 percent discount. The world just becomes madness for 40 days or so and slowly drowns itself silent in January amongst credit card bills and closets stocked full of sleeping products. Navigating Lloyd Center becomes an exercise in battlefield warfare training, all for that shiny new X-Box, or whatever else it is that kids are into these days.
But before the madness ensues, we all sit down with our friends and/or families and stuff ourselves so full of turkey and whatnot; around neighborhoods all over the country, you can hear a distant sound echoing from house to house. A deep rattling sound that is accompanied by a satisfied sigh of relief. A sound that is the inevitable unbuttoning of two hundred and thirty-eight million different pairs of pants being unsnapped simultaneously to accommodate new girth.
Now this is an American holiday. This is pure, unadulterated gluttony.
It is the one day of every year that America sits backs and looks at the rest of the world and says, “We got it and we’re gonna eat it.” The rest of the year America just silently parades our abundance, feigning a sympathetic nod every time those poor starving kids with the doe eyes float a melancholy glance across a television screen, but Thanksgiving is really the time when we can have our cake and eat it too.
Gluttony for everybody: This is even one of the two times every year the homeless are allowed to stuff themselves silly, even though there is more than enough food in this country alone to keep the entire world well-fed, let alone the more unfortunate citizens of our own population.
Now, most people know the story of how Thanksgiving came to be a national holiday, and most people know it isn’t true. The story of the how the Pilgrims’ first winter was so hard that the nice Indians down the block helped them out so when it became time to harvest, the Pilgrims, in an act of Christian charity, invited those nice Indians to dinner.
This about as true to history as a Swanson’s Hungry-Man dinner is true to a Thanksgiving feast. This story originated around 1898, the same time Thanksgiving became a national holiday on the last Thursday of every November, and was an effort to adopt a more unified and common heritage to a young country that was quickly becoming a melting pot.
In actuality, the “Pilgrims” were a bunch of religious zealots. They believed that Armageddon would soon enshroud Europe and that they had been chosen by God, as noted in the Book of Revelation, to travel to America and rob the heathen native peoples of their land to create the Kingdom of God. Once there, everybody would be subject to Puritan orthodox law under which they would be burned alive on stakes or made to wear decorative letters upon their lapels.
The “Indians,” of course, were actually the Wampanoag tribe, who had been fighting the Iroquois for 600 years. The tribe was attending “Thanksgiving” to discuss a treaty that would give the Pilgrims enough land to create a plantation, therefore aligning them against their Iroquois enemies. The Wampanoags, of course, brought all the food. It wasn’t actually until the next year, on the first Thanksgiving celebration, that Thanksgiving became Thanksgiving. The nice “Indians” didn’t attend, though, as Mather the Elder noted in his Thanksgiving sermon of 1623 in Plymouth (the text has survived), in which he gave thanks to God for the devastating plague of smallpox that had wiped out the majority of the Wampanoag tribe earlier that year.
Are you getting hungry yet?
In spite of the horrific events that are attributed to Thanksgiving, I would argue that these really have nothing to do with the modern-day feast.
While it is important to remember the injustices history has served, in an effort for them to not be repeated, I think Thanksgiving can stand on its own without the sappy mythology. In the same way that Christmas no longer has anything to do with Christ, Thanksgiving no longer has anything to do with Pilgrims and Indians. It is about food. It is about gluttony. It is about taking a moment out of our busy corporate careers to stuff our faces full of food until we can hardly move and sit back and think about how much better off we are than the rest of the world and how lucky we really are to be Americans.
Thanksgiving no longer needs Pilgrims and Indians and exaggerated acts of Christian charity. No, all we need now is about 10 tons of food and our own bloated sense of ignorant self-worth. I propose that we change the name of Thanksgiving to … Fuck You Day*.
*Or if our Puritan heritage is making you blush at this sentiment, how about Gastrointestinal Meltdown Day? Bloated on Both Ends Day? I’m Rich and You’re Not, There’s a Turkey in Every Pot Day? The list goes on …