The Real History of Thanksgiving

After a much-needed Thanksgiving break, I’d like to open with this: welcome back, all – to Tufts, to Somerville, to where the laundry doesn’t somehow magically do itself and your bed is a hand-me-down from a total stranger. I hope that week of binge drinking with your high school friends was a welcome change of pace from the stress of binge drinking with your college friends.

Thanksgiving is a tradition in which vegans vigorously judge everyone else while everyone else gives thanks that they’re not vegans. But how did this practice begin? It has occurred to me that not all of this column’s readers may know. Some may be immigrants, not having learned of the uniquely American holiday in grade school. To them, I say: wait, you’re still here? In that case, good news! Thanksgiving was supposedly created by a group of migrants escaping an intolerant government, so you may be closer to it than you think.

Other readers may be homegrown Americans whose history classes fed them a warped, ethnocentric version of the story, ignoring the tradition’s murderous beginnings. As they say, history is written by the Victors, and my history teacher, Victor Donohue, was really quite an ignorant bastard. But if your Thanksgiving festivities focus on togetherness and graciousness, without necessarily appreciating the nuance of what happened all those years ago, does that make you a bad person?

Yes.

So for all of my readers, I’d like to clarify the origins of the holiday once and for all. The practice dates all the way back to the year 1147, when turkeys were first discovered. A group of hunters was out looking for food when they saw a turkey, and they said, “Alright, what the hell is that thing? Is it a bird? Can it even fly, and also are those its balls on its neck? That thing is so hideous, I’d like to murder it and every other one I ever see.”

And so they did. And they brought them all home, where their extended families and friends were visiting from nearby villages. And they all ate the turkeys while arguing about how King Stephen of Blois was their ruler despite never having won a popular vote. And Janet, the first vegan in recorded history, vigorously judged them as they ate. And just like that, a tradition of togetherness — but at the same time intense tension — was born.

Over time, people started to call it by the term “Thanksgiving,” coming from the Old English words thankis, meaning “to give,” and givun, meaning “thanks.”

Okay, that might be entirely made up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a lie! By the laws of 2016, if this column gets more than 500 shares on Facebook, it legally becomes true. Oh, and by the way, what you learned about the history of Christmas is totally bogus too. Newsflash: Santa didn’t even actually discover America. So I don’t want to see you sipping out of any holiday-themed Starbucks cups.

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