Frank Jacobs: Thanksgiving is Un-AmericanRoundup: Talking About History
Frank Jacobs is a London-based author, journalist, and blogger.
Few U.S. folk customs are as popular and as quintessentially American as Thanksgiving. A rich thread of tradition connects the First Feast, famously celebrated almost four centuries ago by Pilgrims and native Americans at Plymouth Plantation, with the modern president's annual pardon of a turkey, officially the Luckiest Bird in America.
But not only is the annual turkey-fest wholly American in origin, it is also -- like American football and the Fahrenheit scale -- as ubiquitous at home as it is rare overseas. Compare that to, say, Halloween or Santa Claus, two holiday phenomena that have struck deep roots in global culture in a still-recognizable American format.
Perhaps why Thanksgiving hasn't become globalized is because it is the festive celebration of American exceptionalism -- a marker of the country's unique position in the world. How much, really, can other nations have to be thankful for, compared to the country that put men on the moon, won two World Wars and one Cold War, and with might and right on its side appropriated +1 as its telephone country code?
But hold on a moment: Thanksgiving isn't all that typically American...
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