Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 14 November 2006 18:00About this time of year, we start to think about overeating, meeting with family members who we generally make a point not to meet with, and watching football.
And we go about all this without ever giving thought to those who are responsible for making this holiday tradition. Namely, the Greeting Card Industry, which has tapped in on the general consensus that it's easier to send relatives Happy Thanksgiving cards than actually talking to them.
But once you get past that, you also have the Pilgrims, who ultimately are responsible for getting the whole thing started in the first place.
The Pilgrims-and yes, you are about to get into an Historically Inaccurate Account of the First Thanksgiving-left England in search of more religious freedoms. The English, the stiffs that they are, had very strict rules about religion back in those days.
For example, you weren't allowed to burn witches. If you can imagine!
So the Pilgrims decided to set out for a new land, where they could have all kinds of religious freedoms. They loaded up a ship called the Mayflower, and set sail for the New World, a newly unveiled continent.
(The Aprilshower had left the docks several weeks earlier, en route to the Old World, which had been under renovation until 1615.)
Most historical accounts describe the Pilgrims' voyage as a very perilous trip, due to things such as cramped quarters, bad food, stale water, dysentery, the cabin-mates who insisted on clipping their toenails in the sink, etc. (Etc. was considered to be one of the worst problems the Pilgrims faced on their journey.)
Therefore, when they reached the New World in 1618, there was much rejoicing. The Pilgrims had anchored themselves near a large boulder named Plymouth Rock, which was surrounded by tourists taking pictures of themselves.
It was then that one of the Pilgrims, after reading a nearby plaque, discovered that they weren't actually supposed to have arrived until 1620. So the Pilgrims all had a hardy laugh at their silly mistake, and reboarded their vessel and randomly bobbed around the Atlantic Ocean for a couple more years.
When they returned to Plymouth Rock, they all signed a document titled The Mayflower Compact, which was reverently named after their trusty ship, The Compact. (Ha ha! Just seeing if you were paying attention.)
Upon adventuring out into the New World, they discovered that it wasn't a whole lot different from England, in the sense that it was full of normal, naturally occurring things such as trees, dirt and Wal-Mart stores.
Several Pilgrims felt this was a rip-off, as they had taken the term "New World" to mean something a little more exciting. They would have returned to England, except that the Mayflower, having finished its obligations, had already signed a contract to appear in several movies about pirates in the Caribbean.
Within several days, the Pilgrims stumbled upon a Native American named Squanto. "Squanto" is a Native American name meaning "He Who Squants."
Squanto agreed to help the Pilgrims through their first year in the New World, on the basis that all history textbooks from first grade and up said he did.
And it was a good thing the Pilgrims had discovered Squanto, because they really had no clue as to what was going on around them.
"First things first," Squanto said in English, because the author doesn't feel like researching the correct language. "You wear your belt around your waist, not your hat."
The Pilgrims' first winter in the New World was very harsh. Due to disease and being ill-prepared (Get it? ILL-prepared? Never mind.) for the frigid weather, many Pilgrims died throughout the freezing months.
After pondering this problem later that spring, Squanto pointed out that they would probably be much warmer if they built shelters to live in.
So all the Pilgrims smacked themselves on their foreheads and got to work building houses.
Throughout the following months, Squanto helped the Pilgrims learn how to plant crops so they would have food for the next winter. In particular, he showed them that, when planting corn, if they put a dead fish by the kernel, the corn would grow much better.
The author says this because that's the one thing he remembers from a "First Thanksgiving" video he watched in second grade.
By autumn, the Pilgrims had grown so much food that they wanted to thank their friend Squanto.
"Eventually we'll end up moving your people onto cramped reservations," the Pilgrims said, "but in the meantime, we would be honored if you would join us for a feast of thanksgiving! It's the least we can do, really."
So they all got together, and even though Squanto had to cook everything by himself because the Pilgrims were too busy sitting in the living room watching a Detroit Lions game, it was a festive day and everyone ate way too much.
And the next day, they all went out shopping to take full advantage of the sales that were going on.
In conclusion, I hope you now have a better understanding of why we celebrate as we do. I hope you have a greater appreciation of our American forefathers and their first years of hardships in the New World.
To those of you who aren't related to me, have a happy Thanksgiving! And to those of you who are, expect a card in a couple days.
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UFO: Turkeys, which were nominated to be the national symbol by Benjamin Franklin, can run 25 mph. And in case you were wondering, Dwight D. Eisenhower attempted to move the Thanksgiving holiday up to the second-to-last week in November, to create a longer Christmas shopping season.
Don't ask why.