Thanksgiving was a Northeastern regional commemoration and it was celebrated in lots of different ways. One of those ways was for young men to dress up as women or in fantastic costumes and promenade, and mug, and make fun of authority. It was a “masculine escape” from the family, an opportunity to break rules and be outlandish. In our increasingly regimented national security state, we could do with some of that old Thanksgiving cheekiness, though we need both sexes now.
Thanksgiving in the nineteenth century in some parts of the country was a combination of Eddie Izzard (cross-dressing), Lady Gaga (wild costumes and breaking conventions), and Jon Stewart (mirthful insults directed at high political authority). Some historians suggest that the homey, nuclear-family Thanksgiving meal was a reaction against all this public rowdiness.
So, as we sit, pants unbuttoned and droopy-lidded, around the flat screen television watching other people work off their calories, we could get an inkling of Thanksgiving past if we imagined uncle Joe dressed up in one of Madonna’s wilder costumes and making an obscene gesture in the general direction of the provincial capitol.
According to my Grandmother she remembers her maid’s brother coming to our door, drunk with a wig and lipstick on in a dress asking my Grandmother for treats. Grammy told me it was a French Canadian celebration called “Tire Ste Catherine” which is actually pulled taffy. She said that it involved the whole family, feasting and drinking and making taffy in the kitchen and men would get drunk and dress up in woman’s clothes and visit the neighbours for more drinks and treats. This was in about 1945 in Cowansville, Quebec, Canada.
I stand by my comments :). Happy Thanksgiving!