This coming Monday, Oct. 12, we celebrate Thanksgiving. A day that has been officially marked in Canada since 1879. However, Canada’s Indigenous peoples have been celebrating the harvest since before the white man first set foot on their land. A day of thanks for the bounty that the earth has provided, thanks for the sustaining of life, and thanks for this great country that is called home.
As children we embraced Thanksgiving for all the treats that came along with it. The relatives we hadn’t seen for many months, the surprise gifts they might arrive with, and the multitude of squishy hugs and sloppy kisses that we tried to avoid. Our parents ran around like the proverbial chicken with it’s head cut off as they rushed here and there to clean the house, shop for meals, cook up a memorable Thanksgiving dinner, and try to keep us kids in some semblance of cleanliness and respectful behaviour.
Great memories have been carried forward from those Thanksgiving get-togethers as we kids grew into adulthood. In fact, as I write this my imagination has me smelling the delicious odor of a large and plump turkey cooking in the oven, the gravy simmering on the burner, and the sweet smell of pumpkin pie as it cools on the counter top. Makes me drool just thinking about it. I also remember how full everyone was after such a big meal, and how we all retired to the living room afterwards to sprawl comfortably on the big sofa and the easy chairs, the men loosened their belts and the kids fell asleep on the floor at their feet. Of course most of the ladies remained in the kitchen, cleaning up the whirlwind of cooking and serving that had taken place there, and also sharing laughter and giggles as they quickly put things back to order.
I remember the silly turkey jokes that the boys were forever shouting out as they tried to best each other on who’s jokes were the funniest, stuff like, “Why did the police arrest the turkey?” And then hilariously shouting out, “Because they suspected fowl play!”
I never thought much about where that turkey dinner actually came from when I was little, but once I was old enough to have my own pets I started to think that maybe that poor turkey wasn’t quite so impressed with Thanksgiving as the rest of us were. In fact I must confess that the great turkey escape of 1959 was choreographed by a small child who thought the great gobbling birds should have a chance at a longer life in the woods than a short one to please our palates. As the birds headed off to points unknown, the dogs charged around in a frenzy, had a good fight among themselves to make the entire afternoon enjoyable, and finally flopped down on the porch to pant and slobber while a very sheepish child hid under the porch lest the grown-ups suspected how the great escape had taken place.
If you live close to the U.S. / Canada border you can enjoy two Thanksgiving celebrations each year. But not this year though as that nasty pandemic of COVID-19 has put the brakes on a lot of family gatherings and fun events. While reading about Thanksgiving customs in the U.S. I was surprised to learn that each year at Thanksgiving, the president of the United States receives a gift of two live turkeys. Then at a White House ceremony, the president traditionally “pardons” the National Thanksgiving Turkeys so they can live on a farm. One can’t help but wonder how many endless jokes come out of that tradition?
Seriously though, no matter what your personal struggles have been during this unimaginable year of 2020, I sincerely hope that you will be able to spend Thanksgiving with people you love, animals who are part of your family, enjoy a good meal with plenty of laughter, and finally feel at peace with your world.
Oh, just in case you would like to know, that kid who created the great turkey escape so many years ago has gone on to do many things in her life, but she still enjoys the togetherness of family, the companionship of a good dog, and the ability to give thanks for the bounty that this country provides.
Stay safe everyone, be kind, and Happy Thanksgiving!