8:31 am. A man with a hammer begins to hit nails into the side of my apartment. Naturally, I remain calm and go outside to see why the $%&*#^@ he’s doing that at 8:31 in the morning. Yes, I know it’s monday and most people are already at their junior investment banker jobs, but some people (namely, the unemployed and chefs) have mondays off.
8:35 am. I am standing in the driveway with my slippers on (moose rowing in canoes, stolen from my brother-in-law), trying to generate the most disgruntled expression I possibly can, when something amazing happens…
A spaceship lands in the grass below my porch. Yup, right in the area where Toast likes to take her morning dumps. I turn to the hammer man, but he’s already run away. I consider doing the same, but the spaceship isn’t very big and besides, three of my unicorn friends spent the night and I know they will fight to the death. No big deal.
Moments later, a door opens with that star wars-ish breaking of a seal sound, smoke billows out of the capsule, and a small alien walks out. He’s green, of course, and has those tube-like antenna jutting out of the top of his head (it’s amazing how right we’ve been about describing what aliens look like). He has a bit of a gut (too much freeze-dried ice cream? I wonder with a chuckle), and he’s holding a pile of what looks like mail, wrapped in twine. He looks down at my slippers curiously.
“They’re not mine, I swear.”
“What? Oh, the slippers- no those are moose.”
“What are moose?”
“Similar to a reindeer, but…” What the hell is the difference? I ask myself. Nothing comes to mind except an obvious cliche. “Reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh and moose don’t.” (I can’t believe I just said that to an alien).
“Santa has a sleigh?”
“Er…yea,” I reply, bewildered that he understands me, “how do you know who Santa is?”
“I keep getting all of his mail.”
I make a what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about expression. He understands that, too.
“The problem is, my name is Santa too, so I get a lot of his mail every year- always during December, which is kind of bizarre, you know? And I’m not going to lie, I have read a few of the letters.”
“And they’re also totally bizarre…A bunch of poorly scribbled notes asking for strange things for something called christmas.”
“What the hell is christmas?” the alien asked.
A flurry of images run through my head: a fat, bearded white guy in a red suit, women wearing ornament bauble earrings, pine trees on rooftops of cars, miniature nativity scenes with hay, wise men, and baby J, eggnog, presents, and really really bad music.
“Um, it’s kind of hard to explain,” I reply nervously.
“It can’t be as hard as me trying to explain this to my family.” He gestures to the pack of letters.
“Ok, well, it’s a holiday that we celebrate on the 25th of December.”
“What are you celebrating?”
“Technically, the birth of Jesus Christ.”
“Who’s Jesus? Is that Santa?”
“No, Santa is the guy who delivers all the presents in his sleigh with reindeer who can fly.”
“So Santa works for Jesus?”
“No, not really.”
“Does he give presents to everyone?”
“Only those who have been nice.”
“As opposed to what?”
“Naughty.” (I can’t believe I just said that).
Santa the alien looks at my moose slippers again. “Who’s Jesus?”
“You know what reindeer are, but you’ve never heard of Jesus?”
“All of my information on your planet comes from these weird letters addressed to Santa.”
“Some people believe that he is the savior of the world, the son of God, the Christ in CHRISTmas, and they worship him.”
“Where does he live?”
“We killed him a long time ago, but he’s not really human, so many believe that he’s just living somewhere else, waiting for the right time to return as our savior.”
“Does he live with Santa? Are they close friends?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“What’s with all of the pine trees getting chopped down and decorated?”
“That’s where Santa puts all of the presents.”
“Oh. Does Jesus have a tree with presents under it?”
“No, he’s not into that.”
“But the holiday is named after him, right?”
“Yea, but Santa has kind of taken over.”
“What an asshole.”
“No, he’s a pretty good guy.”
“He’s a fat slob and he’s taken over Jesus’s birthday party. Not to mention I have to deal with his mail.”
“Yea, sorry about that.”
“You earthlings are strange.”
He’s staring at my slippers again.
When I think of Thanksgiving, I envision pilgrims with buckle shoes and ridiculous hats gathering around wooden tables with a bunch of natives with headdresses, celebrating their most genuine “friendship” by feasting on a giant dead bird (with cranberry sauce and grandma’s pumpkin pie, obviously). However, because I’m highly educated, I know that this is a gross misconception of a holiday that has nothing to do with a dead turkey and everything to do with William Bradford (the badass governor of the 1620 American colony) proclaiming that all his puritan buddies should gather together and thank God for helping them thrive in America.
But let’s be honest, this is not interesting at all…
Turkey day (as I like to call it) is a time for families to come together and eat and drink as much as humanly possible, fall into a trytophan-induced coma, then wake up the next day and act like raving lunatics as they shop from 5am onwards to get the best deals on crap they don’t need.
When I was in fourth grade, we dressed up like pilgrims and sang songs with the “native americans” (fifth graders) about peace and corn and turkeys…then we cut out a giant paper turkey and offered it to the natives (fifth graders), which they happily accepted with “thanks”. This was followed by a feast in the auditorium with our teachers, but all I kept thinking (between mouthfuls of mashed potatoes) was how much I wanted to be a native (because they had cooler outfits and got to make their own walking sticks). A plump pilgrim nudged me in the ribs and said, “why did the turkey sit on the tomahawk?” I said I didn’t know. “To hatchet.” A blank stare. “Get it? Hatch-it?” Oh, right, I mumbled. Needless to say, it wasn’t until high school that I realized the sweet old puritans weren’t so “pure” after all…
“Wait, so they were escaping persecution from King James I and came to America so they could be socialists and practice their own religion?”
“Yea, apparently,” I said. “But then all the indians died from disease and-”
“Dude, you can’t say indians!?!”
“Oh, forgive me. We butchered the Native Americans, then became a capitalist society and thrived. God bless America…”
“I know, right? He’s caused us more problems…”
So, what do I celebrate during Thanksgiving? Being with my family…because there’s nothing better. Nothing.
Well, except perhaps mashed ginger cinnamon sweet potatoes! This is a simple recipe that’s a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving spread.
Mashed Ginger Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 T ginger pulp (= peeled and grated ginger root)
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, add potatoes, carrots, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and onion and fill with enough water to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil and cover, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Strain water out and remove bay leaf, then season with salt and add ginger pulp and coconut milk. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree until creamy and smooth. Serves 6 unicorns disguised as pilgrims.