There's no question that Turkey Day is one of the most boring holidays Americans have. Since we stopped hunting the turkeys ourselves and running Native Americans out of their rightful land, Thanksgiving hasn't really been able to compete with the aura of tasty fear around Halloween or the holy greed of Christmas.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving can be just as horrifying as the other holidays, if you know your history. Harvest festivals didn't used to be about stuffing your face and watching football. Here's some tales you can share with the family around the table.
Aztec Empire - Ochpaniztli
"You know, Mom, no one could celebrate a successful harvest like the Aztecs. Rumored to have sacrificed 80,000 people during the grand reopening of their sun god's temple, the Aztecs knew how to have fun, but they knew when it was time to get to work.
Take the festival of Ochpaniztli, which ran through most of September. Everyone in the city grabbed a broom and got to work on those tricky corners. When the city was scrubbed clean and the corn harvested, a young woman was chosen, decapitated, and carefully flayed so a high priest could dance around in her skin. You know, kind of like that part in Silence of the Lambs when the guy stood in front of the mirror with a girl-skin suit and his junk tucked between his legs."
"No, really. For the next 20 fucking days, the high priest, wearing his rotting woman jacket to role play the part of a goddess on Earth, spent his time ripping the hearts out of prisoners to make sure the Aztec nation didn't get ripped off on the corn harvest next year. By the way, Ma, these potatoes are goddamn delicious."
A turkey breast. Strip off the skin casually.
Greece - Thesmophoria
"Fuck! Sorry about that, Ma. Cranberry sauce is a bitch to clean out of the carpet. Jesus, Dad, don't go out of your way to help her out or anything. You know, harvest time is always rough on the ladies. American women are trapped in the kitchen making turkey for their jealous mother-in-laws, Aztec girls were beheaded. Greek wives, though, they barely got to leave their house at all.
One of the few reasons they ever got away from the husband and kids was during the harvest festival of Thesmophoria. All married women were required to get the hell out of town, and spend three days camped in the wilderness honoring Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, with secret womanly ceremonies. No men were allowed.
Women didn't write in those days, so not much is known about what went down. Historians speculate that the women spent their time swearing ritualistically to cheer up the depressed goddess. Oh, and they carried around decayed pig parts.
See, the year before, they left slaughtered pigs and penises made of dough in deep trenches to symbolize the fertility of the earth. The women, having stayed away from sex for three days to remain pure, brought the rotten gunk out of the earth and spread it over the fields to make next year's crops grow."
Pull out a bread roll in the shape of a penis. You might have to order this from a special bakery ahead of time.