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An American Event
Festivals / Fairs / Events
Member Name: mattygroves10
Festivals / Fairs / Events
Advantages: Good food. A day off school/work
Disadvantages: Bad television (unless you LIKE American college football...)
Isn't it funny what we learn as a child - or, more to the point, how we learn it. "Lies to Children", these simplifications and half-truths have often been called (most recently in The Science of Discworld...but that's another op).
History, and patriotism are often simplified for children. The phrase 'taxation without representation' is an example - in the US, we learned that the colonists rebelled because the King taxed them, without allowing them a seat in parliament. Of course, once you're older, you realise that Britain had gone nearly broke defending the colonists during the French and Indian War, and thought, perhaps not unfairly, that the colonists should bear the brunt of that debt. Nothing is as simple as it seems. But I digress.
At my mum's, there is a picture of me, aged about five or six. I'm standing outside my grandparent's house. There are red and yellow leaves on the ground, and some multi-coloured corn tied with ribbon to the lamppost. I am wearing black and white - a little white bonnet, with a black dress with a buckle at the waist, and a large, white collar. This is not uncommon, at that certain time of year.
Lies to Children
The story goes that a long, long time ago, there were these folks in England who didn't follow the established church - that they had their own way of worshipping the Christian God. They were horribly persecuted by the powers-that-be, and were not allowed religious freedom. So these people decided to undertake a pilgrimage, and visit a (to them) brand new land.
These hardy folk sailed for a long, long time, finally arriving on the shores of this new land, after undergoing much hardship. Upon arriving, they met a new people - which was just as well. For these pilgrims did not recognise the wild life, or know what plants were edible and able to be cultivated. The natives of this land gladly showed the new arrivals how to survive in the new land. The pilgrims were thankful for the aid, and, after the harvest, celebrated with their new friends, holding a great feast incorporating all these newly discovered (to them) foodstuffs.
That's the story I knew as a child. What's wrong with this picture?
Lies to Adults
Well, the story above is more or less true...as far as it goes.
The ship that took these souls to the New World (The Mayflower) did not contain solely Pilgrims. In fact, the Pilgrims (the 'Saints') were outnumbered by the 'Strangers' (the name given to the others by the Pilgrims themselves). When the English arrived, they initially met no-one. Many people died during the exceptionally hard, New England (boy, weren't THEY imaginative with their place names!) winter (of the 110 people who began the journey, fewer than 50 survived the winter). Bill Bryson writes at length (in Made In America) what the pilgrims thought they should bring with them - sadly, their supplies barely included sufficient food even for the journey, much less for the settlement.
It wasn't until the following year that a member of the Abnaki tribe of Native Americans walked into the settlement (no doubt giving several of the settlers minor coronaries), and said 'Welcome'. In English. It seems he'd been speaking with the captains of fishing boats that trawled the coasts, and so had learnt some English.
This was the turning point for the settlers. Another native (Squanto, if you really want to know) joined the little group (unofficially), and taught the settlers how to grow corn, harvest maple syrup, and all sorts of other useful tricks. Not the least of which, one assumes, how to catch a turkey.
The settlers then thrived - they had enough in the harvest to see them through the winter. They would survive - and they had friends. A feast was held, and there were many people there (some people, however, argue that it wasn't all peaches and cream - that the Native Americans, knowing that things might someday change, ensured that every brave was there - a show of strength. But who knows...now?)
Not every harvest, nor every winter was quite so successful - and I think we all know that not all relationships between European and Native were quite so mutually beneficial.
Factlets, or, random trivia
The Pilgrims were by no means the first settlers in the New World. For that matter, the English were not the first settlers.
It is said that the Vikings made it over WAY before 'modern' Europeans. Be that as it may, it IS a fact that the Spanish had colonised the South of North American, as well as Central and South America, long before the 'modern' Northern Europeans arrived. However, by the 1800's, this was deliberately ignored, and generally 'forgotten'.
It better suited the 19th Century Americans to have 'God-Fearing', Protestant, fair skinned (or so they presumed) pilgrims as a national symbol of 'beginning', than the Spanish Conquistador type person (which, of course, is another Lie to Children, but that's another story).
Oh - and by the way - most of the turkey we eat here and in the US is not the American wild Turkey. The common domestic turkey cannot fly, whilst the wild turkey can apparently fly (briefly) as fast as 55mph. Hmmm...
The story goes that during a rainstorm, a domestic turkey is so stupid it will drown. How? It looks up to see what's coming down, and water gets in its mouth and nose. The story is a myth.
A Holiday, A Holiday...
It wasn't until 1863 that a national holiday was created (by Abraham Lincoln - not just a bearded face). Admittedly, the timing of the holiday is a mystery to me - and is, a bit like Easter, movable. Sort of. It's always on the same day of the week, and always at the end of the month. But it has to be a full week...but I'm giving too much away here :)
So...what do we do? Eat. Lots. Eat more. You're supposed to remember what the day is called, and feel...appropriate. But mostly, people eat. They see family, watch the parade, and then watch American Football. Lots of American Football. Falling asleep after stuffing yourself silly is not uncommon.
There are no presents, and ONLY the Thursday is an official holiday. Many people do indeed have to go back to work on the Friday, although some companies give the Friday off to make it a long weekend.
Hope you like turkey - you'll still be eating the leftovers around Christmas (when you may well be eating turkey again). Your bird would traditionally be accompanied by yams (sweet potatoes). Pumpkin pie is another traditional foodstuff (I hate pumpkin pie, personally, mind you, I don't really like sweet potato either). Thankfully, I don't know ANYONE who includes Brussels sprouts in the mix.
What Am I
Well, if you haven't figured it out by now...I'm not going to help you anymore. You're on your own.
Oh, and by the way...it was meatloaf for me last year...and nothing exciting again this year. Thanks Mr Lincoln - Thursday is a darned awkward day.
Summary: Good food, good meat, good god, let's eat.
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- Baci Ceremony (Laos)
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- Basen AGH Swimming Pool (Krakow, Poland)
- The Stockholm Card (Stockholm, Sweden)