In last week’s ’tis the Seasonings post, I wondered why “ginger” and “red hair” were synonymous. Paula from Monday Morning Rail replied with the answer which probably trumps all others (thanks, Paula!). Ginger Grant, the glam character from the sixties sitcom Gilligan’s Island had a healthy head of red hair. Sometime after the sixties a “ginger” became a person with red hair. I’m satisfied, so let’s move to a question more appropriate for this week. Why is (America’s) Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday?
Yes, it’s time for my annual Thanksgiving rant. Rather, my everything-steps-all-over-Thanksgiving rant. It’s not really an annual rant but perhaps it should be. Three years ago I had so much to vent about Thanksgiving’s due, it took me two blog posts to let off the steam (see A Distant Third). This year I’ve decided, zero progress has been made since then. In fact, the situation is snowballing. Thanksgiving is finding less and less air as it gasps between the behemoths known as Halloween and Christmas.
Poor choice of word, “snowballing”. It’ll make readers think about Christmas and I need you to stay focused. My campaign is to keep each of the year-end holidays corralled into its respective month. In other words, November equals Thanksgiving. (Repeat ten times, please). Turkeys and pumpkin pie, not Santas and plum pudding.
There, I said it. Apologies to those of you who’ve already shopped and wrapped presents. Apologies to the rest of you who’ve already decorated your houses. I’m just trying to give Thanksgiving its rightful place among the “big three” instead of its laggard position as “third wheel”.
You can name a dozen things associated with Halloween, and two dozen more with Christmas. But with Thanksgiving? Three (at least here in America). We have the meal itself, the parades, and football. That’s pretty much it.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the American Thanksgiving trifecta. The meal is hanging in there despite efforts to make it healthier. Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are still Thanksgiving staples (while “tofurky” is not). I sometimes wonder why I don’t enjoy these foods on other days of the year as well. Also, more people make the Thanksgiving meal at home than order online or go to a restaurant. (Do I have the data to back this up? No, I do not.) But we should acknowledge Friendsgiving, which has become common enough to remove the quotation marks. Not only is Friendsgiving celebrated on any day but Thursday, the table spread can be decidedly different. Watch out. There may come a November when – GASP! – more people celebrate the “friends” version than the “family”.
Parades remain more about Thanksgiving than the other two holidays. You’ll find the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television this week and at the same time, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Plymouth, MA host large-scale parades. But here’s my Davey-downer factoid. The Macy’s Parade may be the world’s largest (as well as the second-oldest in America) but it’s also an imposter. It began as the “Macy’s Christmas Parade” in 1924, designed to launch a longer retail season at the end of the year. So you see, the name may have changed but the parade is still decidedly “holly-jolly”.
Football brings out the smirk in sports fans again this Thanksgiving. As they have every year since 1934 (save the WWII years) the NFL’s Detroit Lions will be playing on Thanksgiving Day. As they have been every year (seemingly), the Detroit Lions are a truly awful football team. In the last twenty years the Lions have amassed exactly four winning seasons. This year? The Lions are the only team in the NFL without a win. The Lions are so bad in fact, the NFL has added two other games to your Thanksgiving Day lineup so you have options.
We’re almost done here, but don’t panic; I haven’t forgotten the original question. Why is Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday? Here’s the easy answer. President Lincoln made it so back in 1863, as the final Thursday in November. President Roosevelt also made it so back in 1941, more specifically the fourth Thursday in November. Yeah but… why a Thursday?
Here’s the real answer (or at least my answer). Thanksgiving is on a Thursday. Thursday is named for the Norse God Thor. Thor is the God of Thunder. See the pattern? Thanksgiving-Thursday-Thor-Thunder. It’s the whole “Th” thing. Thanksgiving doesn’t really fit on a Friday (but maybe Friendsgiving does). Besides, by Friday we’ve forgotten all about turkey and stuffing as we turn to computers and shopping malls.
Now then, banish all that “Th” nonsense from memory. The real intent here is to give Thanksgiving its proper time and space mid-holiday season. Let’s move Turkey Day from “third wheel” to “equal wheel” by finding more Thanksgiving stakes to claim in the month of November. Maybe we should all dress up as pilgrims. Maybe we should also have our kids “trade” instead of “trick-or-treat”.
With that, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. And next week, I might even wish you a Merry Christmas. You know, in December.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.