This is my eleventh American Thanksgiving in Canada. The first few years, I couldn't break free of my Yankee* ways -- not having turkey on the fourth Thursday of the month somehow felt wrong. Like I was betraying my people, depriving my children of important traditions of their heritage, NOT DOING MY PART as an American citizen. Those first few years, I'd let the kids stay home from school, don the fat pants, and we'd eat like pigs, just as any other self-respecting American will be doing Thursday.
Such a special day off was a welcome treat for my daughter, the Dog Show Freak,** who'd bounce eagerly on the edge of the couch, her nagging about "when's dinner?" waylaid as she stared at the screen, ears piqued for J. Peterman's voice as he introduced the Purina National Dog Show. "Representing the hound group, the 15" beagle ..."
(*While yankee, within the US borders, generally refers to folks from New England, outside the US, you're pretty much talking about anyone born on American soil. That would make me a Yankee. From Oregon. Does that make sense?)
(**The movie Best in Show, with Christopher Guest, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, et al, should be reclassified as a documentary and made as required viewing for anyone who thinks they might want to get into showing dogs. I jest not. Those folks (she says lovingly)? Their own subset of humanity. Not even kidding. But what do I know ... I'm a cat person.)
|Dog show people. Freaks.|
A few things you might not know about Canada, though, that I feel compelled to share so maybe folks will stop asking, "Do you guys have Thanksgiving in Canada?" Why, yes. Yes, we do. And believe it or not -- the Canadians did it first. SHOCKER!
According to information mined from various sites and folks who know way more than me (I'm American -- I only know as much as the information contained within the pro-US bubble. Plus I sucked at history because my teachers for said subject were so boring, they made us wish for death pretty much daily.) How much don't I know? I had NO IDEA the War of 1812 was between Canada and the US. Or where Turkey was. Not the gobble, gobble Turkey but the area once known as Anatolia.
|This is TURKEY. Not Canada.|
Then again, when I was in wee-person school, there was no such thing as THE INTERNET. God, I love Google. I want to woo, date, fight with, and eventually marry Google so we can have Google babies, I can have an affair with Wikipedia but actually run off with some upstart, poetic, newsie site with a strong jaw and a 5 o'clock shadow who looks and sounds conspicuously like Mark Strong, and then divorce Google so I will end up with half his empire in GOOOOOOOOLD.
What were we talking about again?
Right. The first Canadian Thanksgiving. My sources tell me that the first foray into giving formal thanks did not revolve around the roasting and basting of murdered poultry. In fact, salt beef was the entree du jour (why does that make my mouth water), peas (BARF -- why not just feed everyone poop), and dry crackers. An English seaman (tee-hee-hee ... you said seaman) named Sir Martin Frobisher was looking for a Northwest Passage to serve as a possible trade route between India and China. Anyway, he eventually found Baffin Island, situated in modern-day Nunavut where it's freeze-your-teats-off-cold, made two more voyages after the first, and it was this third voyage, with a fleet of 15 or so ships, that was super hard. One ship died. Ice and bad weather pervaded. When they finally did land on solid ground in 1578, a fellow prone to preaching said, "Thanks, God, for not dashing our brains against the icebergs. We will live another day to piss our names into snowbanks" in a ceremony otherwise unclassified -- were there dancers? Fireworks? Shirtless men offering aperitifs and appetizers? History does not tell us. Bottom line, these folks were glad to be not dead, and no longer at sea. And despite the fact that they managed to avoid death in the grips of the icy northern waters, they turned right around and did it again, this time with what Mr. Frobisher believed to be tons and tons of gold. He stuffed his ships' holds to bulging and sailed back to Jolly Old England, likely counting all the ways he would spend his untold fortunes. Unfortunately, his "score" turned out to be iron pyrite, or fool's gold. Worthless. Poor sod ...
The Pilgrims -- who we've learned were a rather dastardly, deceptive bunch considering how they treated the Native Americans who helped them upon landing at Plymouth -- celebrated the first recognized settler-initiated American Thanksgiving nearly 43 years later. What does that mean? CANADA FOR THE WIN.
All of these conversations are moot, however, if we don't recognize that societies have been celebrating thanks for the great harvest and our ability to have tons of sex and make loads of babies in some form or another for millennia. It was the North Americans who finally decided that giving thanks meant lining up at 3 a.m. to beat the shit out of their fellow citizens to be one of four people who will get That Deal of the Century on a 22" flat-screen TV. YOU GUYS: Gross. You're making us look like asshats to the rest of the world. Seriously.
Beyond that, here's more Canada Did It First trivia for you. Because once I got started, I couldn't stop. SO. MUCH. INTERESTING.
~ The Canadian Football League's Grey Cup -- ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD this year. Take that, Super Bowl 47, you mewling infant of pigskin and Gatorade showers and paternity lawsuits and black stuff that goes under the players' eyes and yeah ... (Okay, so that wasn't very poetic.)
~ Hockey's Lord Stanley's Cup is the second-oldest trophy in organized sports (awarded first in 1893 to Montreal). The first American team to win the Stanley Cup was the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917. And in 1919, the Cup wasn't awarded at all because of the Spanish Influenza pandemic that killed lots-o-folks (estimates run between 20 and 50 million globally. Holy shit.). But what is the OLDEST trophy in sports? FINE. I'll give this one to you, fellow Yankees: sailing's America's Cup. Whatever. Who likes boats? I don't like boats. I barf on boats. And boats sink and are overrun with rats and bed bugs and pirates and cranky fat people who will go Black Friday on your ass when the buffet opens. WHATEVER. "Keep your nasty
chips boats," said Gollum.
~ Invented BASKETBALL. Ohhhhh, yes they did! From Wikipedia (because I'm tired of paraphrasing):
In early December 1891, Canadian American* Dr. James Naismith, a physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (YMCA) (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA), was trying to keep his gym class active on a rainy day. He sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters. After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.05 m) elevated track. In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, and balls had to be retrieved manually after each "basket" or point scored; this proved inefficient, however, so the bottom of the basket was removed,allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time.
*Omigod, he was a Hoser AND a Yankee! Okay, we both win!
~ A Canadian invented PEANUT BUTTER. Well, actually, the Aztecs may have done that (they made a peanut paste). But pharmacist Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec, applied for the first US patent for peanut butter in 1884, and came up with originally as a meal supplement for people who had difficulty eating solid foods -- sort of like an early version of Ensure. Dude lived to be 91, so maybe peanut butter IS the elixir of life after all ... *taps temple in contemplation*
~ Winnie the Pooh. Well, sort of. A. A. Milne was an English wordsmith, wildly prolific as an author and playwright before Winnie-the-Pooh was born (Pooh's name was hyphenated before Disney took over). Milne's son -- you guessed it -- Christopher Robin Milne, renamed his stuff bear (formerly Edward [INSERT TWILIGHT JOKES HERE]) after he fell in love with the Canadian black bear named Winnie at the London Zoo. Winnie herself, named after Winnipeg, had been purchased from a hunter (very sad) for $20 by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, himself a Winnipegger, in White River, Ontario, during WWI. Winnie ended up in England with Colebourn and became a mascot of sorts to the Fort Garry Horse regiment. (A bear ... horses ... a bear who eats horses ... they didn't think this one out, did they ...) Though Winnie did not, in fact, eat any horses, she did end up at the London Zoo where Daddy Colebourn dropped her off en route to fighting bad guys in France. After the war wrapped, Miss Winnie stayed put. Good thing. In real life, Winnie would make short work of Piglet, me thinks. Who doesn't love bacon???
~ Invented the TELEPHONE. Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell (who also co-invented the hydrofoil boat). Although, if we're going to split hairs here, Bell was actually Scottish, born in Edinburgh, and he held citizenship in the UK, the US, and Canada. Quite a man-o-the-world, I'd say. And you guys, seriously, when you start looking at all the things Bell did in his life? He makes James Franco look like a mollusk. Wow. Mr. Bell, you were, uh, like, super smart. INCREDIBLY LARGE BRAINED.
~ Invented ICE HOCKEY. And the ELECTRON MICROSCOPE. And INSULIN. And SONAR. And the IMAX PROJECTION SYSTEM. And the WALKIE-TALKIE. And PAGERS. And the BLACKBERRY. And the SNOWMOBILE. And CANADARM (space nerds will know that one). And the WONDERBRA (which finally gave me boobs). And PLEXIGLAS. And the McINTOSH RED APPLE, CANOLA, NANAIMO BARS, and GINGER ALE.
~ Canada, for better and for worse, has given you filmmaker James Cameron (oh, stop rolling your eyes -- you know you saw Titanic 18 times. And that film about ridiculously tall and agile blue people who have sex with their ponytails), Jim Carrey, Neil Young, Michael Buble, Seth Rogen, NATHAN FILLION, Michael J. Fox, Shannon Tweed, Sum41, Keanu Reeves, NATHAN FILLION, the Barenaked Ladies, Steppenwolf, Rush, Celine Dion (stop gagging), Pamela Anderson (stop staring at her boobs) -- did I mention NATHAN FILLION?
|Hi, Nathan Fillion.|
Now that you've been edumacated, and I hope you have -- I hope you see that we really are global citizens of a not-so-vast world -- best get busy putting your Black Friday kit together: sleeping bag, camp chair, .45 (don't forget extra ammo), pepper spray, baby wipes, catheter tubing and/or adult diapers, Listerine, Power Bars, and deodorant. GOD don't forget the deodorant.
I'd ask you to comment and tell me what you're most thankful for, but we all know that's an exercise in bullshit, that all we really want to do is put ourselves into food comas and map out plans for maximum Black Friday destruction.
May the Force Be with You.
And also with you.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MY AMERICAN LOVIES!
Pour one out for your lonely American comrade in the Great White North.
Xs and Os ...