It’s good to be an American this week. We have this wonderful tradition called Thanksgiving. It’s a day of family and food and football and more food. It’s a day of remembering our blessings. So, I thought I would provide this little public service as a way of saying thanks to all the Citizens who read my blog. I wanted to give you the real history of this holiday —not the well-researched stuff you get on History Channel. I wanted to give you the Jeff version of history. It’s much more entertaining.
Thanksgiving began in 1621 when a group of hapless English refugees decided to thank the Indians who had kept them alive the previous year. They got together for a three-day feast and called it Thanksgiving. The feast continued annually until Chief Squat N Smile realized that the Native Americans were providing the turkey, the stuffing, the sweet potatoes, and all of the desert. The refugees (or Pilgrims) were just getting the drinks. The Chief had a heart to heart with the leader of the refugees, and they agreed to do their share on the condition that the Native Americans stop bringing flan for dessert. Known as the Pumpkin Pie and Pitch-In Treaty of 1623, it forever ended flan’s reign as the desert of Thanksgiving.
Although most people believe the first turkey was roasted over an open flame, the truth is the Pilgrims bought a deep fryer at WalPost. They thought it would be quicker and there were too many kids running around to have 20 turkeys going on a giant fire pit. Walpost (It didn’t become WalMart until centuries later) dominated the trading post industry at that time. Their low prices and distribution network were unmatched by their 17th Century rivals.
In 1629, the Salvation Militia (as they were called in the early days) gutted out pumpkins and painted them red. They went door to door collecting donations for the poor in the pumpkins on the day after Thanksgiving. The following year, enterprising young children dressed up as Salvation Militia members and went door-to-door with red pumpkins on Halloween. They realized if they could get a jump on the competition, there would be more for them. WalPost recognized this and began marketing to both groups as early as August! The also convinced the children to carve faces in the pumpkins instead of painting them and the Salvation Militia to buy red kettles. Thus, three American traditions were born: the Red Kettle campaign, Trick or Treating and retailers putting out holiday merchandise months before the actual holiday.
In 1635, Chief Squat N Smile retired as leader of the Wampanoag Indians and became a greeter at WalPost. His successor, Chief Corleone decided to move the family business to New Amsterdam and go into the olive oil, gambling, and prostitution businesses. The family would be later immortalized in the film The Godfather. This meant that the refugees had to celebrate Thanksgiving without the Native Americans and that’s pretty much how it is today.
It also about this time that football became a tradition for the holiday. Despite the snotty insistence of many historians and NFL films, football was being played in America in the 1600s. The first professional football league was the NWFL (New World Football League). It featured 6 teams: Plymouth Otters, King Charles’ Lions, Mystic Pizzas, Salem Witch Hunters, Weymouth Clippers and Manchester United.
King Charles owned the Lions franchise (which also played home games in Plymouth) and was the first of the “meddlesome owners” to plague professional sports. He insisted that his team play to a large crowd each Thanksgiving. However, they were bad. Really bad! So bad in fact, that the tradition of eating before the football game came into being. The refugees figured the food would cause them to sleep through most of the game, thus sparing them from the horror that was on the field.
After years of bad Thanksgiving football, the King Charles’ Lions drafted Jean Marc Rouseau out of France in the 1640 offseason. Although highly touted, he was injured in training camp and never lived up to his potential. This would serve as the starting point to a history of ill-advised draft choices that plague the franchise to this day. Who can forget Thomas Baker III, the #1 pick in 1776? He quit the team just before Thanksgiving to join the Continental Army. Then there’s everyone Matt Millen ever picked…
A few years later, the people of Plymouth decided that having two football teams was overkill and decided to ask the Lions to leave. The team packed up their belongings and left in Mayflower Covered Wagons to find a new home. They eventually settled in an area they named Detroit, the French word lousy football.
As the new world continued to expand and the refugees continued to breed like rabbits, the tradition of Thanksgiving moved from the community to the family home. But the tradition of turkey, pie, and football lives on. And for that, I’m very thankful!
Carry on, Citizens!