November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving, trivially

Some interesting factoids relating to tomorrow's holiday, Arbor Da…er, Thanksgiving:
— Despite its wholesome, Hallmark-averse connotations, Thanksgiving has long been commercialized up the wazoo. Most notably, the date: The fourth Thursday in November was officially established as Thanksgiving in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt, moved up from the traditional final Thursday of the month (though yes, those are often one and the same), just to give retailers more time to sell holiday-season crap. No one would have guessed back then that this would be rendered moot by our current habit of starting the Christmas season the second the back-to-school-sale signs go down. I exaggerate, but we're getting close: I have a crystal clear memory of 1998, getting my very first taste of the Xmas season the day after Thanksgiving, as I suffered through a Jewel holiday song in an elevator. Twelve years later, the turkey hasn't even been served and I've already endured several rounds of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."
— Previously, Thanksgiving was widely celebrated but more regional, gaining its first official American imprimatur at the hand of Abraham Lincoln. In October 1863, he issued a "Thanksgiving Proclamation," which is a pretty enjoyable example of olden-days rhetoric. Though note that even this has an air of commercialism to it: Abe foregrounds good ol' American industry, declaring that "needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore."

— Good old Wikipedia, its quick fact box about Thanksgiving:
They left out "traveling." (And no, you can't edit the page.)

— One of my favorite George Carlin jokes: "Did you ever notice you don't get laid much on Thanksgiving? I think it's because all the coats are on the bed."

— The supposed menu at the first Thanksgiving, 1621: deer, shellfish, cod, bass, various wild fowl (swans, of all things), various vegetables, fruits that you probably wouldn't like very much, squash, and plenty of grains and corn. No sweets, per se, and turkey was probably a minor player. But the meal lasted three days, which makes the five-hour wait at the airport seem a little more bearable in context. (And we here at the BQT know all about non-traditional Thanksgivings…)
— I've never eaten deep-fried turkey, but I'd like to try it, considering my predilection for meat burned to a cinder (I rarely let a woman change me, but one ex has the honor of getting me to transition from medium-well to medium). Deep-fried turkey has grown in popularity throughout the U.S. in recent years, since it cooks fast and we Americans are a lazy breed. And with that, there's been a huge rise in the number of unfortunate turkey-frying accidents—seriously, that damn thing can explode. Tomorrow night, go to Boston Market. Then after dinner tomorrow night, unbutton your pants, light up a jay, and watch these videos of turkey-frying mishaps. Remember: It's funny because you don't know them.

I, for one, am visiting family in Switzerland, eating a lot of really good chocolate and probably not having turkey tomorrow night. I also hate football and can't stomach apple pie, so clearly I represent everything that's wrong in this country. Happy Thanksgiving!