Anyone who has seen ‘The West Wing’ knows that, every Thanksgiving, the President pardons a turkey. In fact, the President pardons two, just in case one doesn’t quite make it through the holiday season, presumably after succumbing to a stress-induced illness due to multiple photo-ops. It’s hard work being the turkey of the Free World.
The pardoning doesn’t take place for any particular reason, you see. Nor has the turkey committed any horrendous federal crime which must be dealt with in the Supreme Court. No, this is just one of the many aspects surrounding the fourth Thursday in November (as decided by the U.S. Senate) which makes this day better than all others.
The ways in which Thanksgiving is celebrated have changed throughout the years. After our flighty ancestors searching for religious freedom foolishly arrived too late to plant any crops, the Indians (Native Americans to you, me and ACLU) generously donated enough food to last the winter and so saved the lot of them.
The following year, General Bradford declared it a day of celebration. However, the pilgrims were not known for their throw-downs and it initially revolved around feasting, fasting and giving thanks to God.
However, the Americans are an ambitious bunch and not ones to rest on their laurels, especially if food is involved. They have since transformed this into a celebration of what is known as the Big Three – God, guns and football, *insert Southern accent here*.
I love Thankgiving; it’s the only time in L.A. where you see real breasts on birds
Imagine my surprise when, as a nice British girl, I was asked to a friend’s house in deepest, darkest Maryland and invited to look at the gentlemen’s gun collection. Which he keeps in his ‘Liberty Chest’. Keen to advance my knowledge of semi-automatics beyond the AK-47 (which, according to a Marine friend of mine isn’t a very good gun), I accepted.
A few minutes later, I was standing in his pitch black cinema room, wearing night vision goggles and holding a pretty serious killing machine. What was I thankful for at this point? The fact that it was unloaded.
I actually shot one of the guns, too. With a silencer. ‘Cause I am that bad ass. A story for another time, I feel.
Who doesn’t want to celebrate a day where the obligations to see extended family members are minimal and there is absolutely no reason to buy gifts? Decant a tin of cranberry sauce into tupperware and no one can accuse you of not doing your share. Post-meal naps are essential, as is mocking the idiots in the Macy’s Day parade who let go of the giant inflatable characters and have to run along the streets of New York attempting to catch them.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the whole shebang is when everyone, slightly tipsy – fine, drunk – goes around the table and says what they are thankful for. The Americans lap this stuff up, the British are embarrassed, and my French uncle generally refuses to participate. It’s not his fault: as a lawyer, he is right not to admit anything personal in such a public forum.
The weather outside is still grim, essay deadlines are still looming and it’s entirely likely your email account is currently filling up with several things you really don’t want to deal with. However, for that night, your Blackberry’s upstairs and the people you love are safe, in one room, with you. And that is something to be thankful for, no matter your nationality.
So this Thursday, gather a group of people you don’t hate and celebrate the fact you’re in this together. You don’t need turkey and, considering the state of some kitchens, Domino’s pizza may be preferable. Either way, be generous with the booze and enjoy yourself.
It’s a long stretch until the end of term, my friends, and this may be your last chance.