For Your Enjoyment #26, Thanksgiving ed.

In 1953, someone at Swanson colossally miscalculated the level of the American appetite for Thanksgiving turkey, leaving the company with some 260 tons of frozen birds sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. Enter the father of invention, Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas, a visionary inspired by the trays of pre-prepared food served on airlines. Ordering 5,000 aluminum trays, concocting a straightforward meal of turkey with corn-bread dressing and gravy, peas and sweet potatoes (both topped with a pat of butter), and recruiting an assembly line of women with spatulas and ice-cream scoops, Thomas and Swanson launched the TV dinner at a price of 98 cents (those are Eisenhower-era cents, of course).

- Thanksgiving leftovers launched the TV dinner

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

- Proclamation of Thanksgiving, Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

"Under my authority as vice president of the United States of America, I hereby grant this yam full and unconditional clemency," a smiling Biden declared as he gently patted "Spud," a Beauregard sweet potato grown in Louisiana and selected from millions of candidates yielded by this year’s harvest. 

- A classic Onion report on the annual Vice Presidential Yam Pardoning

Damn it, I’m a legitimate part of the meal, and it’s about time I was treated as such.

- The Cranberry Sauce Has Something to Say

I am not suggesting that you substitute the sweet potato for the turkey as the centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table, though you could do worse. I am merely saying that the sweet potato deserves more attention and even a bit of praise.

- All Hail the Sweet Potato

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house. We had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.

- Jon Stewart

For a time early in this century, the pardoned birds were sent to Disneyland. More often, they went to farms in Virginia for public display. This year the birds will travel to the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens for “Christmas at Mount Vernon."

A History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon

Every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

- Be careful out there

In 1924, R. H. Macy and Company introduced two institutions: the first Seventh Avenue addition to the existing Broadway store in Herald Square and the Macy's Christmas Parade. Yes, what we now know as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade started out as a Christmas pageant. R. H. Macy and Company was a company full of immigrants, who were thankful for the opportunities that America and New York City gave them. They decided to give thanks and celebrate their good fortune with a tradition rooted in the festivals of their homelands: parades. Macy's employees incorporated their own traditions with what newspapers called an "Americanized modern slant." The press billed the event as "a surprise New York will never forget."

- A history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

In 1939, FDR decided to move Thanksgiving Day forward by a week. Rather than take place on its traditional date, the last Thursday of November, he decreed that the annual holiday would instead be celebrated a week earlier. The reason was economic. There were five Thursdays in November that year, which meant that Thanksgiving would fall on the 30th. That left just 20 shopping days till Christmas. By moving the holiday up a week to Nov. 23, the president hoped to give the economy a lift by allowing shoppers more time to make their purchases and—so his theory went—spend more money.

- That time FDR tried to move Thanksgiving

In 1857, James Lord Pierpont, an organist at a Unitarian church in Savannah, Georgia, published the music and lyrics to a song he had written, “The One Horse Open Sleigh.” The song was first performed during a Thanksgiving concert at the church.

- "Jingle Bells" was originally written for a Thanksgiving celebration

You might think that your post-turkey nap is caused by the bird itself, but this is actually just a myth.

- No, turkey doesn't make you sleepy. Overeating does

"If forced at gunpoint to pick just one I would opt for the Pinot Noir. It would work with both light and dark meat as well as with many of the accoutrements that go with the bird."

- Red or white?

[W]ith their giant size, stooped frame, and limited mobility, today's birds bear little resemblance to their early counterparts. So how did we end up with these modern megabirds? According to Suzanne McMillan, senior director of the farm animal welfare campaign of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it wasn't by accident.

- A thoroughly unappetizing glimpse into the inhumane modern turkey industry (See also: this)

Beginning in the early 1900s, more and more Americans were opening up to the novel idea that thanksgiving need not include turkey. What they could not—or would not—fathom was Thanksgiving sans celery.

- Celery and Olives Dominated Thanksgiving for Nearly 100 Years—Until They Didn't

Similar dishes are known as hashbrown casserole or cheesy potatoes in other parts of the country.

- ...Mormon funeral potatoes? What is your state Googling this Thanksgiving? (See also: this...and this)

The daredevil-ish recipe calls for a tiny warbler stuffed in a bunting, inserted in a lark, squeezed in a thrush, thrown in a quail, inserted in a lapwing, introduced to a plover, piled into a partridge, wormed into a woodcock, shoehorned into a teal, kicked into a guinea fowl, rammed inside a duck, shoved into a chicken, jammed up in a pheasant, wedged deep inside a goose, logged into a turkey. And just when you think a 16-bird roast is probably enough, it's not. This meat sphere is finally crammed up into a Great Bustard, an Old World turkey-turned-wrapping paper, for this most epic of poultry meals.

- Your turducken has nothing on Laurent Grimod de la Reynière's rôti sans pareil

In fact, so many people participated in masking and making merry back then that, according to a widely distributed item that appeared in the Los Angeles Times of Nov. 21, 1897, Thanksgiving was "the busiest time of the year for the manufacturers of and dealers in masks and false faces. The fantastical costume parades and the old custom of making and dressing up for amusement on Thanksgiving day keep up from year to year in many parts of the country, so that the quantity of false faces sold at this season is enormous."

- Halloween...or Thanksgiving

In short, if shopping on the other 364 days of the year is the behavioral economist's version of bringing a knife to a gunfight, going out on Black Friday is going to that same gunfight with a knife made out of Play-Doh. Between retail tricks and your own cognitive flaws, you have almost no chance of actually saving money or making rational decisions. (Plus, you might get trampled.)

-  Maybe you should just stay home on Black Friday

Gratitude is an antidote to life’s hardships and an magnifier of its blessings. We must practice it not just at Thanksgiving, or just when life is easy. We must practice it always.

- Remember, you don't need to wait for Thanksgiving to give thanks 

"F*** the diet."

- This guy