Dammit, the week before a holiday vacation stretches on forever, doesn't it? Especially after you've spent all day in a quarterly meeting at the beginning of the week, which makes it worse, because the four days prior to a holiday vacation stretch on forever! I can only imagine how long the first two days of next week are going to be. Ugh! Iupiter, omnes servas nos!*
So, how many of you are kicking it with the family for Thanksgiving this year? Raise your hands! Notice me? Yep. Mine's up, too. Come next Wednesday, I'll be heading west (young man) to the vast wilds of Tennessee, where my wife's aunt and uncle will be hosting pretty much the entire wing of my wife's family for dinner. Yep. Nineteen people. Two dogs. One tiny house. Helluva a time to no longer drink, eh?
Now, I've told you before that the Roman calendar was littered with holidays and other various reasons to skip out of work, laze around on the river bank, watch prostitutes strip, or toss beans at evil spirits while banging a gong. Curiously, there was no holiday set aside for gorging oneself in order to celebrate the harvest, which is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. Don't get me wrong: the Romans still loved a good celebration and took it upon themselves to do as such whenever they could. However, instead of having one big feast after the end of the harvest, they had several smaller celebrations in order to pay homage to deities such as Opis (or Ops), the goddess of abundance, Consus, Ops' consort and also known as "the seeder", and Ceres, the goddess of grains. Opis was thanked for the harvest, Consus was asked to protect the harvest, and Ceres was invoked to help the crops grow (Opis and Consus was also invoked when planting the seeds come sowing time, usually in December...remember, the Roman year ended with February).
There was also the Liberalia, which was a spring festival to celebrate the boys of Rome growing into men (and coming to the end of the road, presumably), but this involved priestesses wearing crowns of ivy and a giant phallus being carried around the countryside in order to bring fertility to the land. In a way, it was a primitive, very dirty Macy's parade balloon.
All of this has little to do with our celebration of Thanksgiving, which, of course, was a way of thanking the Natives of North America for helping the colonists through the first few years of life, thus allowing them a foothold on this distant shore and making it far easier to usurp their land. Thanks for teaching us that bury-the-dead-fish-next-to-the-corn-plant trick, Squanto. Here's a blanket encrusted with small pox! Now, how many of these brightly colored beads would you like for that island over there?
I guess what this blog (and this post) does provide is some fodder for when strange old Uncle Joe awkwardly tries to make small talk before hitting you up for fifty bucks to cover his gambling debts. I'm a giver like that.
Also, Thanksgiving can be a curious time, especially if people are bringing their own "specialty" dishes to share with the family during the big feast. Sometimes, you don't know exactly what something on the table is, and you're either too polite or too embarrassed to ask. Or, sometimes, the dishes don't taste quite right. If that's the case, I'm here to save you a few moments embarrassment by offering you these phrases to utter in our favorite dead language, so as to not offend.
Pronounced: "Kwah-lis foon-doose fay-lees sah-pit, tah-lis pah-woe sah-pit."
This is also a time when fine china is trotted out and people set out all of their fanciest of dishes in order to impress those people who are about to gorge themselves stupid on the spread of comfort food. Unfortunately, this means there's a lot of extra plates, forks, spoons and cups sitting around. Confusion abounds, especially when there's some extraneous piece of dinnerware between me and a second helping of sweet potato casserole. You're lucky you don't get a fork in your forearm, grandma.
Anyway, if you're confused as to purpose of all these extra pieces of crockery and flatware, here's a pair to whisper to your confidant in order to clear up all that messy confusion. After all, the faster you finish the main course, the faster you get to pie:
Pronounced: "Hah-keen-ey foor-keel-ah oo-tee day-kate? Hoh-keen-aye bee-boh oat in aye-oom dee-gee-tohs in-sair-oh?"
Someone let grandpa cut the turkey already! He's about to go rogue with that carving knife!
If you're traveling this weekend for an extended stay with the extended fam, I wish you good travels. And if you're furiously cleaning this weekend in preparation for an extended visit from the extended fam, then I also wish you luck. And if you're not going anywhere, well, I guess, remember to at least change your underwear.
And if you won't be back here next week, Happy Thanksgiving.
* "Jupiter save us!" Remember, the Romans didn't have a letter J (it's the bastard child of the I).