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Thanksgiving – Black Thursday for Turkeys

Thanksgiving Day
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Along with Halloween, Thanksgiving is one of those events in the US that people elsewhere seem to know very little about, except from what we see on the TV and in the papers.

Currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863, but did not become a federal holiday until 1941.

Modern Thanksgiving tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation. The Pilgrims were unable to cultivate their usual crops and were saved from almost certain starvation by Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe. He taught them how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them (Squanto had learned English while enslaved in Europe and during travels in England). After their first successful harvest, the Plymouth settlers held a feast to celebrate the event and to give thanks to God for helping them survive the brutal winter. At the time, this was not regarded as a Thanksgiving observance; harvest festivals existed in English and Wampanoag tradition alike. This “First Thanksgiving” lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. The feast consisted of fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. However, the traditional Thanksgiving menu often features turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

You can read more about the different traditions here.

To end with, two different views of Thanksgiving, firstly, from Mark Twain:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

and a more modern cultural observation from The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger:

I love Thanksgiving turkey… it’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.

Have fun!

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Strange Random Language Fact:

In Vulcan, Alberta, Canada, the tourist welcome sign is written in both English and Klingon (alien language from Star Trek).

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  1. November 26, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Thanks for the information? That’s actually a lot of stuff about Thanksgiving that I never even knew (or let alone learned in school). Although I did know about the use of lobster in the first Thanksgiving last week from a rerun episode of Iron Chef America (last year’s Thanksgiving challenge). Oh and thanks for the Schwarzenegger quote! Totally made me lol (and having grown up in Southern California, I personally know this to be true!). 🙂

    • November 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm

      Hello Heather,

      Thanks a lot for visiting the site and for the comment!

      I grew up in Southampton, UK, where nearly every important building or company had the word Mayflower in it, so I suppose I was conditioned from an early age! Seriously, though, I think it’s interesting to find out about the origin of festivals (we wrote about Halloween last month), even if the original idea has been lost. In the end, the celebration is what’s really important.

      BTW, please check back tomorrow for a Black Friday post (I’m preparing it now).

      Thanks again and hope you enjoy the blog!

  2. November 26, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    The tv serie “Northern Exposure” (called in Spain “Doctor en Alaska”) the native throw tomatoes to he white people… It’s funny!

    • November 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Magda, I didn’t know that, but I think this is the clip:

  3. November 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Yes! It is!

    The color red of the tomatoe is like the blood, all this is about white people killed a lot of american natives.

    Thanks for the clip! Very interesting see it again!

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