As much as I like the United States of America, I’m confused and disturbed by some of its customs. (The traditions in my homeland of Ecuador seemed so much simpler.) For example, Americans will celebrate a festival of ritualistic gluttony known as Thanksgiving in just a few days.
We at Typewriter Monkey Task Force pride ourselves on our anthropological researches. Although we generally reserve our investigations for important matters such as geek culture and cartoons for little girls, we’re expanding our vision to cover American holidays. Our research is completely authentic, and presented in a factual manner utterly devoid of humor, sarcasm, or silliness.*
As I recovered from last month’s sinister pumpkin rituals, I heard disquieting rumors of a November celebration for which Americans gather to disembowel turkeys and observe brutal bouts of gladiatorial violence. Halloween was odd, but Thanksgiving truly takes the cake… or the pie in this case.
Let’s start with the turkeys.
According to tradition, many American families prepare a turkey for the Thanksgiving festival. The bird is slaughtered and disemboweled. Then, in a macabre twist, its innards are replaced with a mixture of dried bread and spices. Thus desecrated, the turkey’s carcass is placed in an oven, cooked, and then served as part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
I can only speculate that the Thanksgiving turkey is a sacrifice offered as an act of thanksgiving for a good year, hence the name of the holiday. Note that the bird is not immolated as a burnt offering. It is eaten instead by participants in the Thanksgiving festival. I can only infer that the turkey’s ceremonial function is similar to the wave offering prescribed for ancient Israel in the earlier books Old Testament: an offering dedicated, but eaten instead of burned.
The sacrificial turkey is generally served with foods such as mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, corn, bread rolls, pies, and sauerkraut. (I presume sauerkraut is eaten because it has ceremonial significance; I can hardly imagine anyone actually liking the stuff.) Collectively, these foods are called Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving dinner is often devoured with reckless enthusiasm. This annual display of gluttony occurs so widely that it may be ritualistic. Worship has taken many forms in different epochs and cultures: singing, dancing, praying, meditating, offering sacrifices, making pilgrimages, giving alms, and even inflicting self-harm. Could overeating be a form of worship unique to the Thanksgiving festival? Of course, these are just speculations.
The final custom we will examine is that of football.
This athletic event is not to be confused with the sport of the same name, known as soccer to Americans. Having done a little research, I have concluded that American football is a gladiatorial competition in which armored men ram into each other on a field. Their goal is to take, by means of extreme force, an elliptical object that seems to be the eponymous football. This football is carried by hand, not propelled by foot, rendering the origin of its name an incomprehensible mystery.
We conclude that Thanksgiving is an appalling display of gluttony, violence, and unexplained rituals. However, in the interests of anthropological study, we intend to sample Thanksgiving dinner this year. For science.
*Nah, we’re just kidding.
This post was originally published on November 24, 2014. TMTF shall return with new content on November 30, 2015!