Friday, November 27, 2009

breaking loose on turkey day

Thanks to AnnaNigma for alerting me to this blogger's post about Thanksgiving's previous Festival-of-Fools-esque trappings.  Apparently it was a holiday that guys used to act like frat boys.  They'd get drunk, run around in women's clothes or other costumes, and make fun of public authority figures.  So this now family-focused holiday, as AnnaNigma suggests, was probably a reaction against the rowdiness outside.

No wonder I and everyone else I asked about this yesterday had no idea this previous way of celebrating Thanksgiving ever existed.  The Victorians were good managing to get rid of things they found distasteful.  I can just imagine legions of angry American women during the Victorian era holding protests similar to this one in order to stop the cross-dressing and knavery of their men:

image source: RCgroups
In all honesty, who would give up drinking for the "privilege" of kissing one of these hags?

By the end of the 19th century the debauchery ended, replaced by its current, family-oriented counterpart.  St. Paddy's Day and Halloween became the new American holidays for such activities as cross-dressing and excessive drinking.  If you think about it, this Thanksgiving's gluttonous food-stuffing tradition is probably the only trace we have in modern times of its historical past as a day of mischief and breaking rules.

That and the famous annual Thanksgiving's Day Parade in NYC.  According to an article cited in William Shepard Walsh's "Curiosities of popular customs and of rites, ceremonies, observances," Social Science (1897), taken from the aforementioned blogger's post:

Fantastic processions burst out all over the town in unusual abundance and filled the popular eye with a panorama that looked like a crazy-quilt show grown crazy and filled the popular ear with the din of thumping drums and blaring trumpets. Thirty-six companies of fantastics had permits to march around making an uproar, and they did it with great success. Local statesmen went around.with the down-town paraders and helped them whoop things up. There were lots and lots of fantastics who hadn't any permit, and who didn't care either. They were the thousands and thousands of small boys who put on their sisters' old dresses, smeared paint on their faces, pulled on red, yellow, brown, black, and indiscriminate wigs, and pranced round their own particular streets, without the least fear of police interference.

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