Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ahh, Thanksgiving. My family is having its Thanksgiving dinner today. My brother, nephew, and father had to head into town to pick up a few things, my sister, my niece and my mother are spending some quality time together, and I have that "me time" that becomes very rare when the house is full of family.

So, I'm taking advantage of this to share my favourite Thanksgiving memory with you.

It was November of 2002. They day was American Thanksgiving. I was teaching English in Japan. And boy, my two American co-workers were just in a serious depression all day. They were hardly functional. "Right now, the family is sitting down to the turkey," they cried on my shoulder between classes. "Do you know what we had for our turkey dinner? Turkey sandwiches at Starbucks!"

Finally, one of my co-workers had an epiphany. "Hey, Mark, they have Thanksgiving in Canada, right? How have you been dealing with it?"

I looked at them, and, rather coldly, said, "Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. I dealt with it by getting up, going up to work, getting my job done, and not whining about it to everyone I work with." What can I say? They were getting annoying.

Gee, no wonder they didn't like me.

Well, that's not true. When Thanksgiving came around in Japan, I celebrated by having the traditional Japanese substitute for turkey: a bucket of KFC. My students explained to me that most Japanese people have KFC for Christmas dinner, because chicken is the closest they have to turkey.

Actually, to try to lighten the mood a little bit, let me share some Thanksgiving Day facts from Wikipedia:

- Thanksgiving actually grew out of the European harvest festivals that are traditionally held around this time.

- It is believed that the first Thanksgiving in North America was held in Newfoundland in 1578.

- The first Yankee Thanksgiving was held in 1621, when the pilgrims celebrated a huge harvest after their first winter in the colonies. Around the 1630's was when it became a regular festival.

- Thanksgiving used to be declared every year by the US President...it wasn't until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln standardized it, and made it the final Thursday in November.

- In 1939, US President Franklin Rosevelt wanted to change it to the second-last Thursday in November, arguing that, with the Great Depression going on, most businesses would like to have an extra week of Christmas shopping. Congress was opposed, so eventually a compromise was reached: Thanksgiving would be held on the fourth Thursday of November, because sometimes the fourth Thursday is that last and sometimes it isn't.

- Even though the first Thanksgiving was in Newfoundland, Thanksgiving didn't gain prominence in Canada until the American Revolution, when the Loyalists brought the Thanksgiving traditions up north with them.

- Canada's first official Thanksgiving Day was April 5, 1872, when the people were told to give thanks for the Prince of Whales recovering from illness.

- Thanksgiving wasn't made an annual holiday in Canada until 1879. Until then, it was just "whenever."

- Just like in the States, Thanksgiving used to be proclaimed every year by Parliment. It wasn't until 1957 that it was standardized as the second Monday in October.

- And, because of its connection to English Canada and Loyalists, Wikipedia says that Thanksgiving isn't really celebrated in Quebec.

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