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Happy Thanksgiving!! It is THE American holiday. Is it celebrated abroad to any degree? Other countries adopt so much horrible pop culture that it would be a consolation if they adopted Thanksgiving. Ben Franklin reviled the bald eagle, and promoted the turkey as the national bird, one reason being that is an American bird which has been exported. I assume that Franklin knew that the bird which is exported is the Mexican guajolote, so the turkey can serve as a symbol of both imports and exports. Actually, it is more complicated than that. The Spaniards took the Mexican turkey with them to Europe, and the Pilgrims brought some to America in 1620. The native US turkey is larger than the Mexican one--about 4 ft. long--so that in flight they were so majestic that Franklin felt moved.
Thanksgiving was a New England holiday, and, since the Pilgrims invited the local Indians, it symbolized harmony between the two races. In 1863 Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday to be celebrated by North and South alike. Reluctant at first, Southerners have adopted it, but the Indians, after their defeat by the white man in the Indian wars, have viewed the festival as alien to them. In recent years Indian activists have disrupted the ceremonies at Plymouth Rock. This is unfair, since the Pilgrims made great efforts to educate the Indians. They cannot be blamed for what happened over two hundred years later. Thanksgiving was at first very religious holiday, a day of charity in which the poor were invited to partake of the food. The Indian protesters are like the protesters at globalization conferences. My guess is that they are a small percentage of the Indian population.
Like so many religious holidays, Thanksgiving was secularized, and in the twenties it became a big day for baseball and football games. Then, during the Depression, Roosevelt moved it forward a week to boost "Christmas"sales. The Republicans, for whom Roosevelt was the class enemy, refused to comply, so for a few years there were two Thanksgiving holidays, a Republican and a Democrat one. Roosevelt gave up in 1941, and now there is only one, apolitical holiday. As you chew, remember the significance of the day.
Ronald Hilton - 11/21/01