Thanksgiving truths

Thanksgiving is a holiday drenched in history and tradition and giblet gravy, and Americans mark the importance of that tradition by eating so much they can barely make it to the sofa in time for their naps.

We all know Thanksgiving isn't, of course, just about food. It's also about booze. And tradition. And history. And family. And football.

The origins of Thanksgiving are well-known, taught to every first-grader who ever made a turkey out of orange construction paper. But let's refresh your memories so you'll recognize that, in the grand scheme of things, when you look at the epic history of this great country, it doesn't really matter who's leading at halftime.

Thankgiving began in what is now Massachussetts when a group of English settlers, dubbed the "Pilgrims" by John Wayne, hosted a big feast to celebrate their first successful harvest. Thanksgiving originally was scheduled for a Sunday, but was moved to Thursday so the Pilgrims could get a long weekend out of the deal.

The Pilgrims were joined at their feast by peaceful Indians who'd taught them agricultural techniques that would work in this new land, such as how to use dead fish for fertilizer and how to milk a pig.

The Indians, who hailed from Cleveland, were led by a friendly, English-speaking brave named Squanto, who was a big hit with the tribe because he did a wickedly funny Pilgrim impersonation: "Look at me! I've got a buckle on my hat! And more on my shoes! And yet my pants still are falling down!" He also persuaded the Pilgrims that cranberry sauce was edible. That Squanto, what a stitch.

Over the years, Thanksgiving has changed, naturally. For one thing, most of us don't have Indians over for our annual feasts. No, we're stuck with our own families, most of whom can't be bothered to work up a good Pilgrim bit the way Squanto did. Now, we entertain ourselves by lying in front of televised football, listening to each other snore.

Another change: For most people these days, the harvest season is no more complicated than a trip to the supermarket. But we still show our appreciation for nature's bounty by trying to pack in a year's worth of calories in one sitting. What better way to show our gratitude for all we have than by trying to eat it all at once?

The star of the meal is the turkey, which we traditionally consume only once a year because it's such a butt-ugly bird.

(Many people will recall that famed inventor, statesman and all-around crank Benjamin Franklin wanted the humble turkey to be our national bird. That's because Ben always served bald eagle at Thanksgiving. And then he wondered why no one ever showed up . . . By the way, Franklin was from Philadelphia, which is how the Philadelphia Eagles got their name. Better than the Philadelphia Turkeys. Or the Squantos.)

In this time of international strife, we Americans need to remember the true spirit of Thanksgiving. We need to pause for a moment (perhaps before the dessert course) to give thanks for all we've been given. This isn't always easy, particularly if your team isn't covering the point spread. But if you'll take a minute, you'll find there are many things in your life for which you should be thankful.

Here are some suggestions. Be thankful that:

--Turkeys don't carry anthrax.
--You don't have to wear a hat with a buckle on it unless you really want to.
--The Pilgrims didn't land at Mitsubishi Rock.
--Thanksgiving dinner means your children will be forced to eat something, at least once a year, that doesn't have a toy inside.
--You're able to gather in the bosom of your family, even if it means an uncomfortable fit.
--God invented Rolaids.
--Someone invented a way to fit a pumpkin into a pie.
--Someone else invented refrigeration. Otherwise, we'd have to eat all our leftovers the same day.
--For long weekends. You'll need Friday, Saturday and Sunday to recover from Thursday's feast.

And, finally, now that we have our priorities in order, let's all be thankful that Thanksgiving gives us an excuse to watch football during the day on a Thursday.

I'll be rooting for the Squantos.

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