Thanksgiving has evolved with America

By Jim Lee

I hope everybody had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and is back to sensible eating. I would gladly wager all of somebody else’s money that this holiday causes more creative excuses for out-and-out gluttony than any other occasion throughout the year.
“Well, I sure didn’t expect to eat that much.” I’d call statements like that utter “baloney,” but the person who made that lame excuse probably finished off the baloney in the fridge after the turkey got gone.
Every Thanksgiving I end up looking like Subway Jared’s before-picture. When I push my chair back from the table, the wall seems a lot closer. It makes me try to think of a way to grow my arms. If we could increase sleeve lengths proportionally to waist expansion, we could reach the table a lot easier.
Ah, but I digress (as usual).
Ever wonder how all this Thanksgiving mania got going in the first place? The USA and Canada have been doing the Thanksgiving thing quite a while, so it is a North American tradition rather than just a United States tradition.
Oh well, we can still smugly carve the turkey knowing the Canadians have simply been copying our tradition and just putting it in October to be different and contrary.
Not true. The first Thanksgiving in North America was not the 1621 Thanksgiving Bowl with the Plymouth Puritans facing the Wampanoag Warriors, along with the John Madden halftime drumstick.
Nay, not true, friends and neighbors.
Long before Gov. William Bradford’s event in what is now Massachusetts, a nut who later spent two years mining fool’s gold in permafrost decided to have the first Thanksgiving.
The fellow was explorer Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew of not-so-merry mariners. The ensemble got lost on their way to the Spice Islands and ended up on Baffin Island. Located in present-day northeastern Canada just off the western coast of Greenland, there apparently wasn’t a lot to do other than shiver and write polar postcards saying, “Wish you were here, eh.”
So they came up with Thanksgiving.
Over a century later, the event re-started down south in Port Royal, Nova Scotia. It eventually caught on, and Parliament declared Nov. 6 as Thanksgiving Day in 1879.
Thanksgiving stayed on this date until Armistice Day (Nov. 11, 1918), the end of World War I, which became Remembrance Day in Canada and Veteran’s Day in the USA. Because Thanksgiving fell in the same week as Remembrance Day, it was moved to the second Monday in October.
The official date has been moved around in the USA, too. The first of these, of course, was 1621 with the Native Americans and the Pilgrims (actually the Puritans, who 28 years later beheaded Charles I in jolly old England).
In 1789, President Washington declared Nov. 26 as Thanksgiving Day. In 1863, President Lincoln changed it to the last Thursday of November. Almost 80 years later, President Roosevelt changed it to the third Thursday in November, then to the fourth Thursday where it remains to this day.
I doubt if anybody knows for sure what the Native Americans and Pilgrims ate on that 1621 feast in the Plymouth Colony, probably mostly venison and wild fowl (not necessarily turkey). But at the actual first Thanksgiving I bet somebody had to know how to carve blubber.
I wonder what the drumsticks were like.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: