Cliches make writing easy. Gotta scandal? Toss the word “gate” on it and everyone knows what you mean even if they have no clue that the original referred to a rather nice hotel. I should know, I’ve stayed there. And if you’re throwing a big shin dig that’s guaranteed to be lots of fun for all? Toss “palooza” at the end even if you have no clue who Perry Farrell is or why you should care. I can even remember when Xerox had to sue to get control over their own brand name because so many people were using it as synonym for photocopying that no one remembered it was a real company. Thanksgiving comes with its own cliches. It is the time of year when writers, even lowly ones such as me, are expected to share stories of warmth and camaraderie to show that we aren’t truly jaded jerks or, worse yet, avid sociopaths. And, for what it’s worth, I’d love to help you out. But I can’t. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood had its share of happy moments. I’d have been in prison long ago if it didn’t. But the fact is that my childhood was a segmented affair. Spent here with one group of family and there with another. And there were lots of segments. The consistent underpinning, living with my grandparents, had some moments but wouldn’t come close to being anything the modern nuclear family would recognize as warm and fuzzy. More like tolerated moments of dutiful obligations, followed by Lawrence Welk.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized why kids often thought me odd. When we’d talk about this or that family event I never had a corollary. So when I’d share my personal moments I may as well have been speaking Swahili for all the understanding I garnered. But that was my life and it was the only life I knew so I went with it. Not that I had any options, but I never complained.
It was what it was.
Now my immediate family is all dead. And, somehow, it just doesn’t seem right to drag them into some maudlin display of emotion just to make you bust out a hankie and think all is right in the world. But, if you must have treacle with your tryptophan, allow me to share this blogger’s holiday classic.
One year at Thanksgiving, my mom went to my sister’s house for the traditional feast. Knowing how gullible my sister is, my mom decided to play a trick. She told my sister that she needed something from the store. When my sister left, my mom took the turkey out of the oven, removed the stuffing, stuffed a Cornish hen, and inserted it into the turkey, and re-stuffed the turkey. She then placed the bird(s) back in the oven.
When it was time for dinner, my sister pulled the turkey out of the oven and proceeded to remove the stuffing. When her serving spoon hit something, she reached in and pulled out the little bird. With a look of total shock on her face, my mother exclaimed, “Patricia, you’ve cooked a pregnant bird!” At the reality of this horrifying news, my sister started to cry. It took the family two hours to convince her that turkeys lay eggs…
There. Feel better now?
Okay, let’s take a look at some Thanksgiving facts that you may not know.
The First Thanksgiving was only eaten with Spoons and Knives
Forks are something that most people take for granted but imagine eating your turkey with a spoon instead of a fork this year. The reason for the fork being absent was because it was not brought by the pilgrims in 1620. It was introduced ten years later by Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts but it was not brought into popular use until the 18th century.
Thanksgiving is not only celebrated in the United States
For those of you who don’t know, the Canadians also celebrate their own form of Thanksgiving. They however celebrate it on the second Monday of October. Throughout their history the Canadians have been known to celebrate days of thanks but it was after the American Revolution, when Americans who were still loyal to Britain moved to Canada. They brought their traditions of Thanksgiving with them and the Canadians began celebrating Thanksgiving as an end to the Harvest. And they Canadians actually refer to our Thanksgiving as “Yanksgiving” in order to differentiate it from their own Thanksgiving.
It is a Presidential Tradition to pardon one turkey each year
President Truman started this tradition in 1947. He handpicked a turkey and then sent it off to live the rest of its days at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia. It has become tradition that two turkeys be pardoned (in case the first turkey become unavailable). The people of the United States actually get to vote on the name of the turkey. This year President Obama pardoned a turkey named Courage and had it sent to Disneyland.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the Turkey to be the national bird of the United States
Luckily for those of us who prefer the Eagle, Thomas Jefferson was opposed to this idea and fought Benjamin Franklin on it. It has been rumored that Benjamin Franklin named the male Turkey “Tom” in retaliation. Franklin’s reasoning was that the turkey has a much greater significance to the American people (being the main food source for the Pilgrims) and he claimed that the Eagle had “bad moral character.”
The best way to check if a Cranberry is ripe is to bounce it
If you want to know if a cranberry is ripe then all you need to do it throw it at the ground and measure how high it bounces. As long as it bounces higher than four inches it is ready to be picked. Who knew that is what it takes to make the perfect cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving. The cranberry is actually one of only three fruits that are native to North America and it is served at 94% of Thanksgiving dinners.
Thanksgiving has not always been the fourth Thursday of November
It was Abraham Lincoln that slated Thanksgiving as the fourth Thanksgiving of November. In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week in the hope that it would move up the Christmas shopping season and be fruitful to retailers. The move was proven to be very unpopular and it was changed back two years later.
Thanksgiving brought about the creation of T.V. Dinners
Part of the reason that Swanson started creating T.V. Dinners in 1953 was because they needed to find something to do with 260 tons of frozen turkeys that were left over from Thanksgiving. Talk about a lot of Turkey dinners!
Think you have it rough imagine feeding 140 people for 3 days!
The first thanksgiving was comprised of the surviving 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. This was definitely an endeavor because there were only 5 surviving women. Just imagine the amount of food that would involve and cooking trying to keep that many men well-fed for three straight days.
Turkeys in Space
Turkeys as food have become such an important staple and comfort food of Americans that Turkey has even been served in space. The first meal in space was a Turkey dinner and Thanksgiving has been celebrated on a number of space shuttles including the Columbia and the Mir.
Americans eat the weight of Singapore in Turkey every Thanksgiving
According to a study done by the National Turkey Association Americans ate 690 million pounds of turkey during Thanksgiving 2007. That is equal to the weight of the entire population of Singapore. If that isn’t enough to make you feel stuffed then nothing will.
I have a friend who lives in Singapore. She would be appalled by that. She’s a vegetarian and confused enough, as it is, by American behaviors.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!