Changing the Subject at the Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday however many times the table conversation can get just a tad tiresome. If you can’t take another minute of hearing about Uncle Benny’s bunion surgery or how your four-year-old niece is on track for the 2032 Olympic soccer team, here are a few topic changers.

Squanto was a real person- Really!
Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe was introduced to the Pilgrims after the brutal winter of 1620/1621. Over half of the Mayflower’s passengers died during that winter and the survivors were weakened by malnutrition. Squanto taught the settlers how to cultivate corn, extract maple sap and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the Pilgrims forge an alliance with the Wampanoag tribe.
To thank them for their friendship, Bradford invited the Native Americans to a three-day gathering that included hunting and fishing events. Although it was a one-time celebration, annual harvest festivals became common across the land.

Many of today’s favorites were not on the original Thanksgiving menu
Accounts of the first Thanksgiving mention ducks, geese, swan, venison, lobster and mussels but no turkey. There were no pies, cakes or other sugary treats because the Pilgrim’s sugar supply had been depleted. Although references to cranberry sauce date back to 1663, its Thanksgiving tradition started in 1864, when General Ulysses Grant ordered it to be served as part of his soldiers’ Thanksgiving meal.

The “Father of our Country” came up short
President Washington was an imposing presence however his unmatched leadership skills couldn’t push through his idea that there should be a national day of Thanksgiving. Not only did his proposal receive little public support but Thomas Jefferson stated that creating a federal holiday for Thanksgiving was the “most ridiculous idea ever conceived” Obviously Jefferson was unaware of the Pet Rock and died before the premiere of “The Gong Show”.

It took a woman to get it done- “The Mother of Thanksgiving”
Because Washington couldn’t push through a federal holiday, the job eventually fell to Sarah Josepha Hall a newspaper editor and writer, best known for penning “Mary had a little lamb.” She wrote numerous articles in 1863 urging President Lincoln to declare a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Before the year ended, Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as an annual holiday.

A foreshadowing of “Black Friday
In 1939, with the economy in dire straits, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up to the third Thursday of November, thus adding seven more shopping days to the Christmas season. Since Americans never embraced the change, Thanksgiving was moved back to the fourth Thursday in 1942.

Only in America
A major blunder in 1953 caused Swanson Foods to order twice the number of Thanksgiving turkeys needed and the company was left with an incredible 260 tons of extra turkey. A salesman named Gary Thomas suggested that the company fill 5,000 aluminum trays with the turkey along with cornbread stuffing, gravy, peas and potatoes. Thomas believed that consumers would love to eat these meals as they engaged in their new pastime-watching television. Each meal sold for $. 98 and the rest is history.

Thanksgiving is a plumber’s bonanza
Data from Roto-Rooter indicate that there is a 21% increase in calls to fix drains, disposals and toilets over the Thanksgiving weekend. A word to the wise.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Ted Curtin