T Day

in holydays

I told my mother that I was going to Ohio for Thanksgiving and I hear an exasperated, yeh, kiya roz tum nai tehwaar banatay ho?. So, to convince me mum that I did not make up Thanksgiving and that it does exist even though no one outside of N. America cares:

There is very little on the net about Thanksgiving that is not geared towards 12 years old. Goes to the whole construction of social memory thing that I get giddy about. Anyways, this holiday was proclaimed right after American independence by the Congress in 1782:

… the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:—– Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

This didn’t quite catch on (with Jefferson grumbling about separation of church and state). Around the late 1840s, Sarah Hale – the Oprah of 19th c – started to petition and lobby for the national observance of Thanksgiving. She got the ball rolling and by the end of 19th century, we had a national holiday. One cool tradition in the late 19th c. was the telling of stories about the years past at Thanksgiving – which emerged as the pseudo-mythic puritan/native feast of the Thanksgiving story – taught in schools around the nation. And then Macy’s took over.

This holiday is all about giving thanks for loved ones and family and hiding the dread on meeting said family. It is not insanely commercial as Xma$ – which makes it lovely in my immigrant view. It is also about eating turkeys. Why turkey? Blame the Dickens.

I recommend the Library of Congress’ collection of texts on Thanksgiving. Esp. this “Uncle Sam’s” thanksgiving dinner from 1877-8. I also recommend Pieces of April. Taking in conjunction, the two can give a nice undergrad paper on memory in America.

ps: as usual, Sharon has a treasure trove of links. How does she do that?


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