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A Brief History of Thanksgiving!
by: Max Burbank
11/7/06

 

Many countries have some sort of Thanksgiving festival, all of which are probably derived from the harvest-home ceremonies originally held in England.

Dance the dance of toothlessness and glee!
Harvest home festivals may have looked ike this artists rendering,
but with a lot more toothlessness, disease and filth.

These were days reserved to thank God for plentiful crops and a bountiful harvest, or to butter Him up so he might send less Smallpox, Plague, famine and violence in the next calendar year. Accordingly, this holiday still takes place late in the Fall Season, after crops have been gathered, in remembrance of days gone by in which this meal would probably be the last time you felt full for the next six months.

The Thanksgiving festivities of other countries are of little interest or importance, as so many of the guests are usually foreigners.

THE FIRST AMERICAN THANKSGIVING

The modern Thanksgiving Day in the United States is usually a family affair, complete with sumptuous dinners, happy reunions, alcohol poisoning and recriminations; however, it is also traditionally a time for serious religious contemplation, church services, prayer football and domestic violence.

The first observance of Thanksgiving in America was entirely religious in nature and involved no form of feasting. On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River...a location now known as Charles City, Virginia. The charter of the group required that the day of arrival be observed as a Day of Thanksgiving to God. Surprisingly, a mandatory religious holiday with no food, booze or television failed to gin any real popularity, and was soon abandoned in favor of the more recreational practices of freezing to death during the long, cruel winters and cabin fever induced axe homicide.

The first Thanksgiving in the New England area was celebrated in 1621, a little less than a year after the Plymouth colonists had settled in America. Popularly known as the Pilgrims, they had set sail from Plymouth, England on a ship called the Mayflower on September 6, 1620, events celebrated annually in grade school pageants, which are almost as colorless and boring as the Pilgrims themselves, but which generally feature less actual smallpox.

That initial harsh Massachusetts winter killed approximately one-half of the original 102 colonists. The survivors, while certainly of hardy stock, were kind of depressed. The following Spring of 1621, the Indians, led by two braves named Samoset (of the Wampanoag Tribe) and Squanto (of the Silly Names Tribe), taught the survivors how to open Casinos (called "maize" by the natives) and how to catch alewives (a variety of salt water drunken woman). Unfortunately, the Pilgrims proved unable to adapt these aboriginal survival skills, and so the Indians had to fall back on teaching them to grow corn (called 'corn' by the natives) and catch fish ('sea-maize') The fish was used as a fertilizer for growing pumpkins, beans and other crops, until the Indians realized what the Pilgrims were doing and taught them that fish was edible. Samysossa and Squalid also instructed the Pilgrims in the arts of hunting, wallet and moccasin making and the crafting of tomahawks with rubber blades. In turn, the Pilgrims taught their Native American friends the time honored traditions of Alcohol poisoning and Smallpox. By that Summer, despite poor crops of peas, wheat and barley, a good corn yield was expected and the pumpkin crop was bountiful. Swingset and Squat-thrust considered teaching the settlers about Jack-o-lanterns, but abandoned the idea amidst concerns that the white man's unbridled enthusiasm could lead to starvation. In early Autumn, to recognize the help afforded the colonists by the Indians and to give thanks for having survived, and even more thanks that the deaths of several of his political rivals would almost certainly go uninvestigated in the 50% death-o-ganza of the previous winter, Governor William Bradford arranged for a harvest festival. Four men were sent "fowling", and then later asked to hunt ducks and geese. Turkey may or may not have been a part of the forthcoming meal since the term "turkey" was used by the Pilgrims to mean any type of wild fowl, pig, family member who had died during the previous winter, corn, corn meal or debatably edible clump of wet dirt.

Here, eat some turkey before we kill you and take your land!
The Native Americans were surprised by the settlers cooking
skills and hospitality, but nowhere near as surprised
as they were to be victims of genocide soon after.

The festival lasted three days if you count the four final days spent in whiskey-induced blackout as a single day. Massasoit, local 'Maize' or chief of the Wampanoag, together with 90 Indians from the various Eastern Woodlands Tribes, participated in the ceremony, singing, rejoicing, eating, drinking, and dying of smallpox. There can be little doubt that the majority of the feast was most likely furnished by the indigenous population, which the Pilgrims gratefully accepted. This began a long tradition of European immigrants accepting things from the Native Peoples, such as land, natural resources, land, hunting rites, places to live, and land. It is known that they provided venison ('maize'). The remainder of the meal, eaten outdoors around large tables, also probably included fish, berries, boiled pumpkin, watercress, whiskey, leeks, lobster, rum, dried fruit, Wild Lunchables, clams, library paste, wood alcohol, small rocks, wild plums and cornbread. The celebration of this first New England Thanksgiving is believed to have taken place sometime between September 21 and November 9. With time out for good behavior.

The event, however, was a one-time celebration. It was not repeated the following year, nor was it intended to be an annual festival, and was perhaps discouraged by the mysterious disappearance of Samosa and Squabmeat or Governor Bradford's equally mysterious acquisition of a really nice tanned leather coat, or both.

Fun fact: That's his real hair, not a wig.
"Those are buttonholes. Buttonholes always look like human eye holes."
-Governor William Bradford

The hottest ticket in town!
"I heartily endorse this Drag Karaoke Competition"
-Governor William 'Human skin coat' Bradford

55 years later, the suspicions of the local tribes having been soothed by a whole lot of Smallpox, another Thanksgiving Day was officially proclaimed, when the Governing Council of Charlestown, Massachusetts convened on June 20, 1676 to weigh how to best express thanks for the good fortune that had secured the establishment of their community. By unanimous vote, Edward 'Maize' Rawson (the Clerk of the Council) was instructed to announce June 29 as a Day of Thanksgiving. Yet again, this proved to be only a one-time event, perhaps owing to the extremely low post celebration survival rate. Future festivities, when they eventually came about, would involve no less liquor, but a lot more pre party frisking and so far fewer edged weapons.

From the first observance to the celebrations today, Thanksgiving has come a long way, especially in terms of survivability. The evolution of Thanksgiving as a National Holiday is an interesting story. If you have admittedly reasonable doubts, I'd stop now and not bother with the next section. Of course, you'll miss the extremely graphic sex scene, but it's all good.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE MODERN, LESS LETHAL, THANKSGIVING TRADITION

Although not intended to be a perpetual annual observance, in October of 1777 a Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed. Although it marked the first time that all 13 colonies were to join in such a celebration, it was equally a commemoration of the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga, a near miraculous achievement considering the British resistance to the Colonial weapon of choice, Smallpox.

Come on boys! Fight for your freedom, fight for PENCILS!
Without the victory at Saratoga, the colonial army would
have had to weather the coming winter without pencils.

Nevertheless, over time, the notion of a Thanksgiving Day began to spread to other New England colonies.

In 1789, President George Washington issued a general proclamation naming November 26 as a Day of National Thanksgiving. Many were opposed to the idea, terrified as they were of the Cherry Chopping, Wooden Toothed, Megalomaniacal, Killing Machine Father of Our Country. There was an air of discord among the Colonies and a feeling that the hardships of a handful of long dead and never very much fun to begin with Pilgrims hardly warranted a national holiday. In that same year, the Protestant Episcopal Church announced that the first Thursday in November would be a standard annual day for giving thanks, and that November 26 would now be known as 'Old Wood Tooth Day', 'Fool's Thanksgiving' or 'Maize'. Yet, for many years, the United States had no regular national Thanksgiving Day (although some states independently observed a yearly Thanksgiving holiday, the date being derived from a complex algorithm that was later discovered to be invalid as 'mashed tater's; turns out not to be a number). By 1830, New York had an official State Thanksgiving Day and other Northern States quickly followed suit, which made New York get all pissy and say that other states were copycatting it, and to stop copying, you sissy-sissy-copycat other states. In 1855, Virginia became the America's first Southern State to adopt the custom, though it was altered slightly to include less corn and more human slaves.

It was largely due to the efforts of one Sarah Maize Hale that America eventually recognized, on a united national level, the feast known as Thanksgiving Day.

You should've seen her karaoke rendition of 'It's Raining Men' - it was amazing!
Sarah Hale, Thanksgiving promoter, author, Drag Karaoke Champion

Editor of "Boston Ladies' Magazine of Tittering," and later contributing to "Godey's Lady's Secrets Book," Hale dedicated 40 years of her life to a campaign which promoted the establishment of a National Day celebrating Smallpox. When this failed, she settled on 'Thanksgiving' but she'd kind of wink when she said it and point to her tell tale scars. Hale is credited with persuading Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States. Unfortunately, she failed in her attempts to persuade him to stop being gay, not marry a crazy woman, give that dump Ford's Theatre a miss, and make a really good helmet his trademark instead of that stupid stovepipe hat.

In 1863, President Lincoln decreed that the holiday was to be observed on the last Thursday of every November unless it was a leap year, in which case the number of Thursdays in November was to be divided by Mashed 'Taters. (Interestingly, Hale, born in Newport, New Hampshire, was a prolific writer whose major surviving work is the children's poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Less interestingly, she is also the author of the famous graffiti, "Here I sit, broken hearted")

For the 75 years which followed, each President in office formally proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on that last Thursday, except for the little known President Elmo Rastus Monkeylick, who declared it informally while standing on his head in a chamber pot. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, famously stating "I gots to have my big, ol' crippled thumbprint on EVATHANG!" set it for one week earlier. The President's stated reason for this change was that he wanted to help businesses by lengthening the shopping period prior to Christmas, but many historians speculate the real reason was that he was completely insane, a fact his staff hid from the nation by keeping his wheelchair hidden.

LOOK IT'S CRAZY TURKEYHAND JOE!
"Lookameeee! I'm standin' up and I gots a TURKEY for a hand!
Watchout, Tojo! Turkeyhand Man is a gunnin' for ya!"

Public uproar against this decision caused the celebration of Thanksgiving to be moved back to its original date two years later, but it kept wandering back to where Roosevelt had left it, mooning around and moping until In 1941, it was finally ruled by Congress that the fourth Thursday of November would be deemed an observation of Thanksgiving Day, that it would be a legal federal holiday, and that anyone found celebrating it at any other time would get a damn good pasting.

Of the 300 million turkeys raised for consumption each year, one is chosen to be sent to the White House. Then another is chosen to be the dinner. Get it? I made a joke where the President is a 'Turkey' or 'really stupid'. Ironically, this is almost always true. The turkey is granted clemency from death and receives the President's pardon, except for three years ago when the President got confused and bit it's head clean off, or the next year when the president tried to put it down his pants amidst frenzied cries of "Sir, the cameras are rolling!" or last year when he tried to blow it up and make a balloon pony for a cute little girl who turned out to be the Secretary of Commerce.

Gobble, gobble!
Make your own 'Turkey Jerky' funny caption and paste it here.

Barring such mishaps, This lucky bird is then sent to a farm where it is slaughtered and eaten by the farmer, in full view of illegal migrant farm workers who's entire Thanksgiving feasts consists of a bean, the bottom two thirds of a 7-Eleven Slurpee, and a stern talking to in a language he may well not understand (Maize).

NOTE: For those of you who have read all the way to the end hoping to find the graphic sex scene, it should be noted that like Thanksgiving, this was something you foolishly looked forward to that was always bound to be a disappointment.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Max Burbank


If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

The 2006 Jones Soda Holiday Pack and Dessert Pack Taste Test!
The 2006 Jones Soda Holiday Pack
and Dessert Pack Taste Test



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