Please allow a brief indulgence to the history teacher in me. I’ll get to personal finance, I promise!
In 1620, the Mayflower landed in what was going to be Massachusetts. The pilgrims on the ship actually missed where they were aiming for, landing far north of where they planned. Dealing with what was, rather than what they wanted to be, they set up camp and made their home. Contrary to popular belief about the relationship between European Settlers and Native Americans, these pilgrims formed an alliance with the local Wampanoag tribe. They lived and worked together, with the Natives teaching the pilgrims how to grow corn. In 1621, after the first successful corn crop in the colony was harvested, the settlers held a feast along with their Native friends where they had fowl (eatin’ birds), deer (brought by the Wampanoag), seafood, corn, and whatever other food they had. This was the first American Thanksgiving.
In 1863, during the worst war in American history, the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln decreed that the last Thursday of the month of November would be a national holiday. Lincoln called for all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November.
Prior to that, about 10 states celebrated a regional Thanksgiving. Sara Hale, a magazine editor and the writer of Mary had a little lamb (among a BUNCH of other achievements) had petitioned FIVE Presidents, calling for the establishment of what was only the third national holiday (the other two were Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day.
Beginning in 1966, when the Detroit Lions lost to the San Francisco ’49ers and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns, and lasting until today, Football has become part of what we call Thanksgiving. Football had been played before on Thanksgiving, but since 1966 Dallas and Detroit have played football every Thanksgiving.
So let’s recap: Initially a huge, three-day kegger celebration of not starving to death during the previous year, Thanksgiving became a day to remember those that died during the Civil War, and finally became a day to watch the game, eat too much, and spend time with the family. That all works just fine with me.
I’m sure there are going to be plenty of places where you can read about what others are thankful for and admonitions for you to get in touch with all of those things that you are thankful for. I’m not going to be that guy this year. Tomorrow is a holiday. I say we get back to the roots of what this particular holiday is about. Tomorrow is about spending time with people you love, eating way too much, and watching TV.
What Can I Do?
- Contribute: Contributing to the festivities, making a dish, bringing something to the party doesn’t have to be difficult or terribly expensive. Think of it as practice for the future. I’m not saying to make the turkey or another main dish, but make a side or a desert.
Make pumpkin ice cream. Take a quart of vanilla ice cream and mix it with 1/2 cup of pumpkin pie filling. Freeze it for two hours. Put the mixture in a food processor or a mixer and mix until well mixed and smooth. Freeze for another two hours. (Found on ICHEF.COM)
Not a fan of pumpkin ice cream? Fine, make a side dish. Mashed potatoes are easy enough for young people of almost any age to make.
Here’s one from my family: Take some cans of canned yams, put them in a deep baking pan. Cover with brown sugar and cook till they are warm enough for your taste. Top with mini marshmallows and put back into the oven until marshmallows get all toasty and melty.
- Be Helpful: Maybe you are the type of person that shouldn’t be allowed around food and fire. Okay, maybe you do something else instead.
If your family is anything like my family, your mom is going nuts right now making sure that every piece of the house in clean. Grab a vacuum and start helping out without being asked.
If you are an older child, and you know your family members are stressing out and gong nuts, maybe you mix a round of cocktails. I found this one on CREATIVEHOMEMAKING.COM
Harvest Cider Punch
Pour apple cider into large pot. Insert 6 cloves into each apple. Add apples and cinnamon sticks to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and barely simmer over very low heat 1 hour to allow flavors to blend. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before continuing.) Ladle hot cider punch into mugs. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.
Source, Bon Appétit, December 1995
- Be Engaged: Don’t be like the typical teenager when there is a family get together. Unplug, put down the phone, get off Facebook and join in.
Personally, I don’t enjoy watching the parade that is on TV every year. Parades just aren’t my thing. But when I’m visiting with family, if they want to watch the parade, I’m there with them.
Even better, turn off the TV too. Do something that forces you and your older family members to talk or laugh or engage. I’m not talking about something boring (but important) like sitting around the table naming something that we are all thankful for . I’m talking about playing a game.
Why watch football when you can toss a football around? Why watch TV when you can play any number of family games. Sure, your parents might seem dull and out of it. Guess what- when you become a parent, you will be dull and out of it too.
Or how about this idea? You have the iPod and iTunes (or whatever you use now to steal music– my favorite was Limewire until it was closed down). Why don’t you play the music for the party. Ask for suggestions of your family’s favorite songs. Create a playlist that evenly intersperses songs your family likes and songs you like. If you are going to do this, don’t be a bonehead. Don’t play your Brotha Lynch Hung. Save your Q-Ball. This is a day for family, and while you might enjoy Macaframa, I’m reasonably certain that your parents or grandparents won’t. Remember that there is a time and a place for everything. Make this the time and the place to play music that isn’t offensive.
Have a little fun. You’ll be surprised at how your family reacts to music that is different from what they grew up with. My Father-in-law, even though I’m not sure he’s ever heard of them, seems to enjoy playing Sublime riffs on his bass. My Mother-in-law likes to sing along with Modest Mouse. Is it creepy and a little weird? Damn straight! Can it also be fun? Sure, once you get over the weirdness. Whatever you do, do your best to have a very happy Thanksgiving!