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?

Feast.

6 thoughts on “T Day

  1. Cheeni: moving the thursday of thanksgiving around does not indict it, rather the insanely commercial xma$.

    I liken Thanksgiving to the firing of the starter pistol: the consumerist orgy begins the day after Thanksgiving.

    Add the fact that it participates so intriguingly into the tradition-making memory of the state.

    Which tradition do you mean ? Some call it a harvest festival, others call it an expression of equality, some others call it a religious event, and still others in the South condemn it as games silly Yankees play.

    The blithe condemnation of this damned yankee institution gets the immigrant no where.

    That sentence of mine was supposed to be read with a fine Southern drawl. Y’all will know that them brown immigrants are spoilin’ the landscape.

    (I’m merely playing the devil’s advocate here – not everyone wants the immigrant to call himself American)

    There will always be some who will never accept the immigrant. When a fellow minority American (not a desi, but say Chinese or African American) asks me where I’m from, they usually expect to hear the town in USA I am from. But, answering Pittsburgh, doesn’t satisfy or outright suprises the white supremist – who usually wants to hear me say Madras.

  2. New Years, Labor Day and 4th of July are overtly Christian and make you purchase gifts or props or anything not consummable immediately? Celebrate Halloween and call it quits.

    ps. answer my q below please.

  3. Cheeni: moving the thursday of thanksgiving around does not indict it, rather the insanely commercial xma$.
    Now, here is the larger context. For a recent immigrant, such as meself, here is the choice of holidays to engage in:
    1. New Years Day
    2. Easter
    3. 4th of July
    4. Labor Day
    5. Thanksgiving
    6. Xma$

    Out of all the above, the only one not overtly Christian and where one does not purchase gifts or props or anything not consummable immediately is Thanksgiving. Which is also the only one geared towards the family as a cohesive unit [something us thirdworlders appreciate]. Add the fact that it participates so intriguingly into the tradition-making memory of the state.
    The blithe condemnation of this damned yankee institution gets the immigrant no where. Much more fruitful, to bring up the history of the tradition at the table and insist on serving cornish game hen. As I did.

    Aamir: you DEF. need to fast less and feast more.e

  4. Is it just the habit of fasting which makes me feel closer to the few who fast than to the masses who feast or what?

  5. It is not insanely commercial as Xma$

    Huh ?

    In 1939, FDR fought opposition to move Thanksgiving from the last Thursday to the third Thursday in November, to extend the Christmas shopping season. In 1941, the realization that there was little difference in retail sales figures between the states that celebrated Thanksgiving early and those that clung to the traditional holiday inspired Congress and FDR to permanently fix the date on the fourth (not the last) Thursday of November.

    – which makes it lovely in my immigrant view.

    Trust immigrants to feel comfortable being a part of a “damned Yankee institution”.

    Thanksgiving must be the most confused and controversy ridden holiday ever. That said, the Thanksgiving weekend is very welcome, thank you very much.

  6. Er… it’s called procrastination and work-avoidance techniques, mostly. Google is great for that. ;)

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