Well saut/ my giblets, the holidays are here once again.
Beginning with Thanksgiving and ending in the dawn of the New Year, the season is, in principle, a time of interpersonal camaraderie and gratitude. Ideally, it is commemoration of the past and a celebration of a new beginning.
In the real world, however, the holiday season is a stressful trial of self. A celebration not of what we have but how much, the holidays uncloak an insidious part of American society.
Every year countless Americans spend money they don't have, gain weight and drown awkward social encounters in booze. At the end of the year the guilty consciences promise to change, which they rarely do.
We all do this in the supposed spirit of the season, yet it seems as though our pursuit of holiday cheer gets lost in a fit of consumerism. By trying too hard to please each other, we make ourselves miserable. At least the food is good.
Turkey Day has a truly dark side. A distinctively American holiday, Thanksgiving commemorates the feast held by the Pilgrims in 1621 to thank the leaders of the Wampanoag for handing over America, uh, I mean helping the Pilgrims through the previous winter.
The Pilgrims, a group of ultra-Puritan dissidents from England, came to America in order to practice their religious beliefs. Aligned with reformist ideology but believing the Anglican Church to be too Catholic, the Pilgrims escaped to the New World believing that Europe was on the brink of Armageddon and that they were the saved.
The original group of about 100 wouldn't have made it through the winter had the Wampanoag not been so ideologically shackled to charity. Even though they viewed the white settlers as a possible enemy, they shared their food stores with the starving Pilgrims, and the colony survived the winter of 1620.
After the famous feast and the winter of 1621, the peace between the natives and the settlers evaporated. According to a testimonial by the Fourth World Documentation Project, by the fall harvest of 1623, relations were downright hostile. During the harvest feast, a Pilgrim named Mather the Elder gave a sermon thanking God for a smallpox plague that wiped out most of the surrounding native population.
The Pilgrims saw themselves as righteous and the natives as subhuman heathens. Over the next couple generations, as settlement increased all over the New World, it was descendents of the Pilgrims who began to capture the natives and sell them into slavery in southern colonies. This business proved so successful that the native population alone could not fill the demand, and voyages to Africa began.
While almost every non-equatorial society has some sort of autumn harvest, Thanksgiving wasn't an official holiday until the American Civil War. The holiday was invented, so to speak, by Sarah Hale, then the editor of Godey's Lady's Book. Hale was of the belief that "Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be a national festival celebrated by all our people."
On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln first declared a national day of thanksgiving to be held on the last Thursday in November. Aside from a couple of years during the late 1930s, this has been the norm ever since.
True, in contemporary society we are now beginning to pay homage to those peoples displaced and killed off in our forefathers' divine quest to tame this wild land.
Yet still today, on the final Thursday in November, Americans join together and, as a show of appreciation for our ancestors' struggles, eat until we pass out.
On Friday we go shopping.