Just Ramblin’: Holidays in November
By Art Penchansky
Of course, the most well-known and popular holiday in November is Thanksgiving Day, that’s a given. In school we learned that the first such holiday was observed in October of 1621 after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, with the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians sitting down to a meal of free-range turkey, squash and corn. It was made a national holiday by our first president, George W. This is the simple version.
There are many versions of the event and its origins, almost as many versions as there are historians, which is not unusual. Most events have multiple versions touted by anyone who wants to write a book and become famous, mostly among historians. The rest of us are immune to the multiple version theory and are willing to accept the one that suits us.
Most of us will sit down to a meal of turkey (not free-range in most homes) and all the trimmings. I usually am awarded a turkey or turkey breast by my local super market for my purchasing enough groceries over the year to qualify. I normally take 3 or 4 slices and donate the rest to charity. Fortunately, I’m not alone in this action as I know many who do not finish their meal and don’t keep leftovers.
Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, is observed in this country on November 11th and celebrated only the armistice signed between the Allies and the Germans ending WWI. In 1938 it became a national holiday, and the name was changed after WWII and the Korean Conflict to Veterans Day, honoring all veterans who served in national wartimes.
In most states, flags are placed on the graves of those who are buried in national or state cemeteries, and who served in the military during a war in which the nation was engaged. Instead of lowering flags to half-staff in honor of the dead, they are raised to full height honoring the service they gave to their country.
I’m not sure about most cemeteries, but in the Arlington National Cemetery there are gravestones and flags for those of all nationalities, religions, colors, creeds and opinions who served in the military of the United States during wartime. I missed by a year, thankfully, and after two months in Korea in 1954 they decided they didn’t need me there and forced me to go to Paris, France, for the two years remaining in my hitch (hooray!).
Although I’ll be in the ground soon enough, no flag or commemorative stone will be placed at my gravesite honoring my service. But, in all honesty, I’ve got to admit that my two years in Paris was hell – savoring all brands of beer produced in Europe that don’t reach American shores. That produced in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia was my favorite, as was brandy made in France, much of which now reaches us. Unfortunately, I no longer drink, and haven’t for over 40 years, so I have completely missed the advent of beer brewed locally in small breweries, darn. Interestingly, Coke was available in almost every place I went in Europe in the 1950s, and there were many.
Armistice Day, by name, is still celebrated in many European countries, understandably not in Germany, and is accompanied by parades and/or other events. Many of them are graced by Americans, and a few have been attended by a serving president of the US, although the ceremony honoring D-Day is more likely to draw our president as it is warm in June but not as much in November.
By the way, I’m sure most of us know that the first landings of a group of permanent residents in America happened before 1620. My wife’s ancestor, Robert Hunt, was the minister that landed with the settlers in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. He died two years later. He did not perform the marriage ceremony of Pocahontas and John Rolfe which took place in 1614. No proof is known to exist that he even knew the princess, or even Rolfe. He left a wife and children in England before arriving here and they came several years later. Marion’s father was the last in that line of male descendants as her name and that of her children was changed upon her first marriage – not me, I was her second.