Now don't get me wrong, I'm a thankful person and feel tremendously blessed with what the Universe has provided and for what I've worked to attain: wonderful and loving siblings, extended family, great friends, excellent health and work that I love. (I even have all of my own real teeth.)
But for some reason, I'm just not crazy about Thanksgiving or anything that goes with it -- the parade here in New York, football games on TV, or even the turkey for that matter. So my partner and I high-tail it out of town to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to lay low, while we gear up for the next holiday season. Truth be told we get a thrill out of knowing that everyone back home is working up a sweat by making every attempt to be thankful while over-eating mountains of food that took days to prepare...cornbread stuffing, smashed-spuds (my twin-sister's seasonal favorite), sweet-taters, gallons of gravy, cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, that nasty mandatory green bean and onion-thingy, a Jell-O ring that nobody touches (what's floating in there anyway?), pies, pies and yet more pies, and that big spooky turkey carcass lurking in the kitchen.
A resplendent feast of gargantuan proportions might have worked for the early settlers of Plymouth... perhaps that's why they did it in the first place. The small colony of Pilgrims had set sail on a ship called the Mayflower, seeking freedom from religious persecution by the British. They loaded a cargo of provisions into the belly of a primitive vessel and set off to start fresh in a new land.
To be sure, their trans-Atlantic voyage was riddled with illness, starvation, icky weather, and infinitely fewer amenities than the QE II. In 1621, the Pilgrims' first bash was in celebration of the beautiful changing colors of the season, their gratitude for the bounty they had harvested, a gratefulness for having survived in the unforgiving nature of the North East and an indebtedness to the Native Americans who helped them survive. No doubt, I'm guessing they also said an extra special prayer that the chill in the air they felt was not a harbinger of a killing frost to come.
With a presentation of precious chow, paired with entertainment and worship, the Pilgrims gave thanks to and with the local Native tribesmen. Thus was born an American Tradition.
Traditions and memory can play a wonderful and magical role in how families celebrate holidays, Thanksgiving notwithstanding. My earliest recollection is my gene-pool sitting around a stretch of card-tables and my grandfather saying the Lord's Prayer in Dutch. Being narcoleptic, he never quite made it all the way through without falling asleep and I remember adult stares at our weak attempts to hide our laughter while he snored. One year my grandmother lost a band-aid in the turkey dressing only to be later found by my dad -- politely chewing, chewing and chewing!
Good guess the earliest shin-dig wasn't as fancy as our current versions. Today many folks reserve the "good stuff" for company at holiday time. That's when we bring out the heirloom silver, the Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles, and the linens that great aunt So-and-So embroidered while incarcerated. If your family is anything like mine (at least when it comes to the traditions of bringing out all the things that will eventually get passed down to the next generation), then you know how much work preparing all this rarely used junk can be: polishing tarnished silverware; unwrapping, cleaning, rinsing and drying the "heirloom" set of dishes; soaking the crystal glassware; laundering and ironing those stupid fussy linens, etc.
And like most hosts, you'll pull out all the finery and do what you need to do to make it all ship-shape and shiny. Even if your offspring, parents and siblings don't appreciate all the effort, at least your "adoptive family" of friends will be impressed. So recruit the kids to help, praying that they don't break or chip anything, and do whatever else is needed to prepare the table while trying to also prepare that blasted bird.
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