Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in New England there is an old tradition in which five kernels of corn are placed at each setting on the Thanksgiving table in remembrance of those less fortunate and as a wish for prosperity in the coming year. This tradition has its source in the struggles of the Pilgrims to survive those first long winters in the New World; at times they were forced to subsist on a daily ration of five kernels of corn. By placing the kernels at a table overflowing with abundance, we remind ourselves of those things for which we are most grateful, and that we should share our good fortune with others.

Today is the start of the month-long orgy of conspicuous consumption and over-indulgence known as The Holidays. As we rush about, shopping and eating and drinking and decorating, we should try to take a few minutes to remember what's really important - the people in our lives who are our source of strength and happiness and yes, at times aggravation (or agita as my Mom used to say).

I love a parade
Back when I was trapped in retail hell, one of the department stores I worked for was R.H. Macy's, who's annual parade is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and cranberry sauce. Many of the balloon handlers, clowns and assorted costumed float characters are drawn from the ranks of Macy's employees. I'd like to say that I participated in at least one parade, but alas I didn't. Still, watching the parade has been a family tradition since I was a wee lad (and continues with my own family; as I write this Connor and Kim are watching it). Writing this it occurrs to me that I've never actually sat down and watched an entire parade from start to finish. Still it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the background noise of this holiday event. Below is an ad from the November 27, 1924 New York Herald Tribune announcing the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Parade held almost exactly 85 years ago today.

Thank you, Squanto (and you too, Samoset)
History tells us that the first Thanksgiving, held during the autumn of 1621, was made possible in part through the beneficence of Tisqantum aka Squanto, the surviving member of the Pawtuxet Indians. For the Pilgrims he acted as wilderness guide, teacher and interpreter. He mediated a peace treaty with the Wampanoag Indians and his assistance helped the Pilgrims survive. Yet it was another Native American, an Abenaki Indian named Samoset, who was the first to encounter the Mayflower's passengers. Samoset spoke limited English, and it was he who introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who had spent several years in England and was much more fluent in their language.

Holiday for Drumsticks
Daffy Duck and Thomas Turkey starring in the 1949 Warner Brothers cartoon, Holiday for Drumsticks. Directed by Arthur Davis with voice characterizations by the great Mel Blanc (of course), here's a small Thanksgiving present from me to you. Enjoy!