6 Supposedly Ancient Traditions (That Totally Aren't)

#3. Pretty Much All of Thanksgiving

The Tradition:

Pumpkin pie, giant helpings of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet, artery-plugging gravy. Thanksgiving combines gluttony with drunkenness and sports hooliganism and you don't have to feel guilty about any of it because it's even older than America. The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 at the Plymouth colony in what is now Massachusetts. The starving colonists shared a meal with the natives and formed a friendship that would last until syphilis and exposure killed them all.

How Old It Actually Is:

Thanksgiving as we celebrate it today was finalized on 1941, coincidentally only one year after America's favorite turkey supplier first trademarked the name Butterball.


America loves it some turkey.

Who Made It Up?

It's true that a meal took place in 1621, but like most meals, it was pretty much a one-off thing. There were a few local celebrations held on varying dates, but people were generally too damn poor or busy running revolutions to bother with another holiday. Thomas Jefferson even called them "a monarchical institution."


Way to shit on everyone's good time, TJ.

All of the traditional foods and pageantry we associate with Thanksgiving are the invention of one pushy broad named Sarah Hale. She finally nagged Abe Lincoln into creating a new holiday in 1863.

The food at the original Thanksgiving was a motley assortment of fowl (possibly not even turkey), cod, corn and venison. Mrs. Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book (the Cracked Magazine of its day) realized that history would need to be jazzed up a bit if Thanksgiving was to have a future. She put together a massive recipe book that included many treats we still enjoy today, as well as batshit crazy heart-murdering foods like "ham soaked in cider for three weeks, stuffed with sweet potatoes and baked in maple syrup."

Mrs. Hale was convinced that, if she could just get enough families to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, she could avert the Civil War. Obviously, she failed, but President Lincoln thought the idea had enough merit that he tried it anyway.


Some things are beyond even the power of cider-drenched ham.

For the first half of the 20th century, Thanksgiving was celebrated mainly by the rich and wannabe rich, since no one else could afford to waste the money. In 1939, FDR decided to change the date in order to give retailers more time to get ready for Christmas. For two years, people celebrated Thanksgiving on different days depending on their political orientation. It wasn't until 1941 that Congress set the date we still use today.

#2. Scottish Hipsters "Invent" the Kilt and Clan Tartans

The Tradition:

When you think of Scotland, chances are you think of hilariously incomprehensible alcoholics, Nessie and Groundskeeper Willy, and you picture them all wearing kilts. The Internet is absolutely littered with guides to Scottish clans, all of which include information on the clan's inevitably ancient and storied tartan: the specific pattern of colors on their man-dress. But you didn't need the Internet to be invented to teach you about the ancient roots of the kilt. Braveheart clearly shows William Wallace and an entire army of Scots fighting for their right to wear skirts back in the 1300s.


Here we see the venerable, ancient tartan of Clan Digicam.

How Old It Actually Is:

The kilt was invented in 1725, otherwise known as 400 years after William Wallace died.


Which dates back about as far as the first orthodontic braces.

Who Made It Up?

Prior to 1725, but well after the invention of pants, Scottish highlanders were wearing a robe-like proto-kilt called a plaid. So to be fair, the Scots were covering their unmentionables with ridiculous plaid clothing long before the kilt. An English iron-master named Thomas Rawlinson noticed that robes, while great for receiving commandments from God on a mountaintop, were somewhat "cumbrous, and unwieldy" for the Scots he employed to work over an iron furnace all day. Knowing that Scots' would not tolerate cloth between their scrotum and the ground, he invented a skirted plaid, and the kilt was born.


"Hi, I'm Mel Gibson. My hobbies include anti-semitism and taking great, steaming green shits on history."

Well at least the patterns on their "plaids" have always had a unique tie to ones ancestral identity, right? Actually, that apparently didn't happen for another hundred years, and this time instead of saving Scottish balls from being melted, it was capitalism, plain and simple.

Once the kilt had been invented, outlawed and then reinvented as a sort of hipster retro look, a cadre of textile manufacturers sprouted up to cater to the needs of the Highland regiments. One firm named William Wilson and Son of Bannockburn noticed that many wealthy, fashionable young Scotsmen had taken to wearing kilts. Some had even formed clubs around the trendy garment. There's even an ad from the 1700s claiming a 'great choice of tartans, the newest patterns,' which either means the Scottish switched families based on the hottest new fashion trends, or the Tartan thing is bullshit.

Mr. Wilson and Son may go down in history as the first designers to exploit gullible hipsters for money. They allied with the Highland Society of London and put together a key pattern book of all the clan tartans in 1819. The society matched clans to patterns and passed the whole sham off as an attempt to reconnect the people of Scotland with their ancient history.

#1. With Apologies to Our Pagan Friends

The Tradition:

Wicca, Druidism and other neo-pagan faiths offer a great many things to their roughly one million adherents. Spiritual fulfillment, friendly communities of like-minded believers and some of the best drug fueled sex parties you'll find this side of Lichtenstein. But it's all good, people have been wearing immense hooded robes, and sacrificing goats around bubbling cauldrons since years before we had electricity, right?

Most practitioners will acknowledge that Wicca as a recognizable faith is about 60 years-old. The neo-Druidic faiths popped up around the mid-1700s. In both cases, the leaders of either movement claimed to be bringing back some ancient religions.


10 to one odds these guys know where to find some kick ass weed.

How Old They Actually Are:

A few years younger than the con men who popularized them. Most of modern codified Wiccan thought comes back to three people who just sort of made it all up in the late 19th and early 20th century. "Old" Welsh and Druidic traditions don't fare much better; they have their genesis in 1792.

Who Made It Up?

Trust us when we say that the average author will write literally anything for sex, drugs, money or all of the above.

Charles Leland, Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner all published books that, they claimed, held the ancient secrets of witchcraft. Leland pretended to have learned the doctrines of Old Italian witchcraft from a sorceress named Maddalena. Margaret Murray is the woman who coined the term "burning times," while Gerald Gardner asserted that Wicca began in pre-history and went "underground" throughout most of recorded history.

Gardner was probably the chief founder. Some people even call him the father of Wicca, as he founded the tradition from which most current blends of Wicca descend. Also, he looked like this:

Gardner claimed to have gathered traditions and beliefs from surviving covens that had "gone to ground" centuries or millennia ago. Of course, there's absolutely no way to verify any of Gardner's claims. We do know that he plagiarized quite a bit from Aleister Crowley. Also hurting his case is the approximately zero archeological, written or any other sort of other record of any of the practices he "brought back." Since "underground" is archeologists favorite place to look, that doesn't bode well.

The foundations of neo-Druidic and "ancient" Welsh cultural traditions go back a little further. In 1792 a hallucination-prone laudanum addict named Iolo Morgannwg (originally Edward Williams) started to hold Druidic (Druish?) ceremonies in London. He wrote up lists of rituals and practices and set up gorseddau, or Druish sects, across Wales.


Druish high priestess.

Long after his death, all of Morgannwg's writings were revealed to be outright forgeries or total rewrites of older works. To Iolo's credit, he only used his newfound religion to make a ton of money selling books and (presumably) to sleep with girls in the 18th century counter-culture. We suppose that makes him kind of a dick, but deep down, that's why we write every article we've ever posted.


18th Century Girls: Don't knock 'em until you've tried one.

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