The truth about Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving Day, Artist's Rendition of Turkey, Autumn Leaves

(Moscow News – – Mark H. Teeter – November 28, 2013)  Sometimes Russians get American history so muddled (так путаются в американской истории) that it can only be un-muddled by authentic Yankee ingenuity (аутентичной хитростью америкоса типа меня). Last week, my grandson Valerka displayed lecture-worthy prejudice regarding the origins of Thanksgiving (День благодарения): “Isn’t that the holiday,” chided the young whippersnapper (молоденький хам), “where you stole the Indians’ land and celebrated by inviting them over for dinner?” “You’ve got things confused,” I replied grand-paternally, resisting an impulse to box the lad’s ears (дать мальчугану по ушам). “The real estate fraud came later (Oбмaн с недвижимостью – это чуть позже). Now listen carefully:

“On the fourth Thursday in November, Americans commemorate a feast held by our 17th-century Pilgrim forepersons (Отцы-пилигримы – политкорректный вариант), who barely survived their first New England winter without microwaveable food or broadband Internet. They had no idea that their celebratory dinner, to which they’d invited Native Americans on a BYOB basis (Не приходите с пустыми руками!), would doom their descendants to a tradition of vulgar parades, gluttony and indigestion (пошлые парады, обжорство, расстройство желудка) followed by a national day of shopping so frenzied it incites rioting (интенсивный шоппинг, порой кончающийся беспорядками).”

While my satirical exaggerations effectively undermined Valerka’s Trotskyite revisionism, perhaps genuinely curious Russians would enjoy learning about the holiday’s real rituals. Well, in the spirit of Art Buchwald’s freestyle “translation” for Parisians – who now widely recognize Pilgrim leader Miles Standish as Kilomètres Deboutish – let’s toss four key Thanksgiving criteria at Muscovites and see what sticks (вдруг что-то приклеится):

1. Family gathering (cемейный сбор): Getting together at somebody’s place is a big deal for widely dispersed Americans, and the run-up to Thanksgiving is actually a nationwide drive-up, fly-up or get-there-any-way-you-can-up, a recent Russian visitor noted – “Накануне все аэропорты Америки переполнены, а дороги забиты автомобилями” – as generations of kinfolk, friends and hangers-on hurry to welcoming domestic hearths (“спешaт поскорее добраться к теплому домашнему очагу”). Yes, even the irritating ones.

2. Turkey with all the trimmings (индейка со всей отделкой): This is the classic centerpiece of the nation’s holiday meal, with the native fowl traditionally joined by cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy and pumpkin pie for dessert (клюквенное варенье, картофельное пюре c соусом и тыквенный пирог на десерт). To get more patriotic you’d have to eat a flag.

3. Saying grace/giving thanks (молитва/выражение благодарности перед пиром): Most Americans feel that all of us – believers, non-believers and fervent agnostics (горячие агностики) – have much to be thankful for, and the pause before our national feast is the time to express this, aloud or to oneself. Amen to that (Аминь на это)!

4. Watching televised football – real, American football – in a stupor (смотреть настоящий американский футбол по телевизору в ступоре). There’s nothing quite as soporific (снотворный) after the annual face-stuffing, even if you actually like the Detroit Lions. And by the third quarter it’s OK to start contemplating a turkey sandwich.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quizzical Fun: Which “moneyed” American statesman wanted the turkey as America’s national bird?