For any international readers not familiar with American Thanksgiving, the simplest explanation is to think of it as a day when family gathers from far and wide to celebrate the great American tradition of overeating.
Thanksgiving is a special day when hearts swell with gratitude…also with the symptoms of heart disease.
Swelling of the stomach can also be expected. Also hands–you might want to take off any rings before sitting down.
The brain’s shame center also experiences some swelling–make sure and take group photos before dinner because those post-dinner hound-dog expressions of shame can’t be edited out with Photoshop.
The origins of the first Thanksgiving are still in dispute, but apparently the Pilgrims came to America to pursue their religious right to continue eating beyond the point of being full. The Pilgrims were persecuted for challenging the Church of England’s long-standing doctrine that a man should cease eating once he felt full or at the very least once he felt dizzy, nauseous, or passed out. The Pilgrims believed the feeling of being full was merely a mile marker along the path to digestive glory, and if we were truly grateful for the meal God had provided, we would show that gratitude by eating three dinners–one for each member of the holy trinity.
The actual menu served at the first Thanksgiving is also widely disputed, and this uncertainty has only increased the tendency to overeat. Some scholars say the Pilgrims ate turkey, wild goose, and venison. Some sources say eel, or bass, or cod. Some less reputable sources–like me–say Sasquatch and pterodactyl. But because nobody is certain, we’ve compensated by eating one of every single type of food the Pilgrims may have eaten or would have eaten if seven-layer dip had existed in Pilgrim times.
As the story goes, Pilgrims were near starvation during their first year and the Wampanoag Native Americans taught them how to fish and gave them seeds. The second year was much more prosperous, and the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to join them for a giant feast. The Wampanoag would come to regret their attendance when their chief Massasoit and Governor Bradford reached for the last turkey drumstick at the same time and the two men agreed Massasoit could have it in exchange for his continent.
In defense of the Pilgrims taking the land of the people who saved them from starvation, it should be noted the Native Americans were sitting on some pretty great land. When the Pilgrims learned Mount Rushmore contained the images of four of our future presidents, it was hard not to feel a sense of ownership.
Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the holidays, the Christmas shopping season, and a dramatic six-week gaining of weight. For those people watching their weight and who spent the previous ten and a half months losing the weight gained during last year’s series of seasonal dinners, Thanksgiving is a reminder that the entire world is against you.