Of Beavers, Garb Police and Giving Thanks

25 Nov 2013 by gebhard, No Comments »

downloadIs Thanksgiving a period holiday?  I know at a glance you’d balk and think “How can anything celebrated in the modern United States be period?”.  With a minor amount of research, done between the loading gaps of my steaming shows, I can tell you concretely, 100% that Thanks Giving is… sorta period…. ish… but not really.

However, I have also concluded that Thanksgiving as we know it is only Mostly not Period. That’s different than Completely not Period. When it’s completely non-period, there is only one thing you can do: give it to Gold Key.

The history of Thanks Giving as a holiday is really as old as humans.  For many reasons, throughout time people have gathered to give thanks and eat, often in the fall after the harvest. But other times as well, say surviving the plague or a security producers and mandatory insurance review policy meeting.

Eventually, These types of “thanks givings” happened so often that in 1535 there were 95 church holidays (not including 52 Sundays) when people might have expensive celebrations, often prohibiting red meat. Which lead to a boost to the beaver packers industry. As we all know, rodents with large front teeth and flat tails are, in fact, fish.

In the 16th century the numbers of wild beaver were running low, with the technology for fish farming still in it’s infancy reforms where required, and the number of church holidays were backed down to 27 in 1536.

Like always, there were a hardcore group of holdouts.  In this case, it was the Puritans. Extremely dedicated to their vision of the world, and making sure you fit into it, that vision included the non-consumption of beavers. They wanted a removal of all holidays, including Easter and Christmas. “Holidays” would be replaced with “Days of Fasting” or “Days of Thanksgiving”. The flyer for this must have been really impressive, because Puritan membership grew.

In the Colonies, Thanksgiving can be traced back to a poorly documented party in 1621. Making Thanksgiving  “more” period than Playford.  (What does a poor reference look like 1621? You’re reading one now.) According the document Pilgrims and Puritans sat together for a meal, as best as I can tell this lead to the first city riot when the puritans tried to burn a pilgrim at the stake for the heresy of food they brought to the table. Pilgram the other white meat? Needless to say this cause an ostracism of the puritans, and thanksgiving as we know it would have to wait until for several hundred years, as the Pilgrims continued their regular harvest of beaver from the local ecology.

The modern Thanksgiving ( By modern, I mean with Turkey rather than rodents. ) has been observed since about 1863 year on which all states would celebrate on the same day. This was set by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln that made Thanksgiving the last Thursday in November. Franklin D. Roosevelt hoping to trigger economic growth moved the holiday to fourth Thursday in 1941.

Our tradition has outlasted the Puritans. From what was once a wild party, to a day of fasting, it’s become a day to gather with friends and family, to celebrate the harvest and to stuff ourselves with food and thanks.

What happened to the Puritans?

They live on in each of us. Anytime we ball our first and proclaim our rigid vision of the world. “Why do we let in people without period shoes?” “I can’t believe she used polyester on that dress.” “You know that buckle isn’t period?”

While it’s important to always strive to improve, our improvement isn’t made by limiting what others can do, criticizing them, or otherwise trying control them.

If we could limit the actions of others, we’d find ourselves much like the Puritans. A group of people no one wants around because they take away all the fun….. and water mammals. And believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten water mammal.

I hope an SCA where everyone is accepted as they are, and can be as authentic as they are able, is something we can all be Thankful for.

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