Now, the printed newsletter has typically been bi-monthly, and the folklore column has often followed suit, even since we have been online. As a result, though there would invariably be a Halloween and a Christmas column, we have rarely included a Thanksgiving column (contrary to my "several previous columns" comment below).

When November of '97 rolled around, I realized I now had the freedom to delve into the holiday properly - and immediately realized why there had been so few Thanksgiving columns . . .

There's just not that much to write about the holiday!

Seriously, pilgrims show up, almost starve, are grateful, eat a bunch of food, then we cut to modern times, sit ourselves down and eat a bunch of food in memory. Not the most fascinating of topics.

Don't get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. It's just that, compared to the wealth of folkloric possibilities inherent in the holidays which surround it, this particular day, though most enjoyable, presents a certain challenge for the poor folklorist who needs to find a way to make it interesting, to say something new.

At any rate, following in the footsteps of my return to the history of Halloween the previous month, this was the first column to look at the Thanksgiving holiday itself since November 1986 . . .

Thanksgiving Revisited


It's Halloweekend as I write this - somewhere out there, in the dark, a few straggling spooks still meander about, pumpkins enjoy an added day or two of ghoulish glory, a careful ear will discern faint howls and laughter in the distance, as this unique and wonderful time draws to a close.

But after all, why do we love Halloween so much? Certainly, it is partly because of the celebration itself - but is it not also what this holiday augers in? For Halloween is not just a day in and of itself, but a promise - for after the ghosts have done their flitting, after the bats are removed from their respective belfrys, after the last cobwebs are cleared away, one notices a distinct chill in the air not present before - the days grow shorter, the fireplace beckons, and one's thoughts turn to the coming Winter Solstice . . .

Ahh, but before bells are set to jingling and certain portly red-bedecked gentlemen become a staple on every street corner, a special day is given its due - a day without presents, without Pagan Precedents, a day set aside simply to remember the joy of what we have, the joy of family, and of course, the joy of all day football.

We've dealt with Thanksgiving in several previous columns - for reasons of necessary brevity I'll simply add a couple of noteworthy trivia items, and leave you all with some very cool websites to check out.

As mentioned previously, the Pilgrims did indeed dine on Turkey and Pumpkin, as well as corn, lobster, and home-made wine. The first Thanksgiving occurred in mid-October, which used to make me worry that maybe the Canadians, who celebrate the holiday to roughly coincide with Columbus Day, had outdone us, tradition-accuracy-wise. However, after that first Thanksgiving, the next year brought no repeat - times were tough and a lot of Pilgrims starved. However, the following year proved more bountiful, and so in a sense it was as they approached their fourth winter in this frightening new world that one could imagine the Pilgrims finally feeling they had something to be thankful about.
And it was that year, two years after the "first" Thanksgiving, that the celebration was held in late November.

Thanksgiving as a yearly event did not catch on for a long time. The first attempt to honor the day historically did not occur until the late 1600's in Massachusetts. Nothing more was done until 1777, when the colonies made a half-hearted attempt to declare it a national holiday at the very moment they were attempting to become a nation - and Thanksgiving did not actually become said holiday until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it as such.
Funnily enough, the tradition of Thanksgiving existing only by Presidential Proclamation exists to this very day - Clinton's 1996 "Proclamation" can be found on the internet - which reminds me . . .

I could go on, but it's time to leave you with some great Thanksgiving websites and sign off - you see, all this research has made me awfully hungry . . .

My favorite Thanksgiving site overall, good history and links, etc.

What would a list of Thanksgiving links be without a Plymouth Rock website?

Finally, this is the Good Housekeeping site for great Thanksgiving recipes. Yummmm!

I'll see you in December, when I promise to drum up a plethora of Christmas Spirits!