Wednesday, November 21, 2012
1874 Spain: Queen Isabella's son becomes king. It is thought his father is not the queen's consort, but either of her two lovers: Enrique Puigmolto y Mayans (captain of the Royal Guard) or General Franciso Serrano.
1929 Rome: Lichtenstein: Johann II the Good dies; his reign of 70 years and three months is the longest in European history. He never married and left no heir.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! This is one holiday I really love, one that comes and goes rather quickly, involves large amounts of great food not only on the day itself but for several days afterwards, and that brings families and friends together. Growing up in a strictly Catholic family, I also liked Thanksgiving because it was a secular holiday that didn't involve spending a lot of time at a church service.
Thanksgiving's roots in the U.S. are right here in New England, which has also been the center of research that has stripped it of a lot of the myth and sentimentality that grew up around it over the years. There is not anything like an unbroken chain of observance of Thanksgiving going all the way back to the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims. Our Thanksgiving came about in a flurry of politics and conscious image/myth-making in the years following the Civil War.
Now, sadly much of Thanksgiving has been co-opted by the ever more voracious merchandising frenzy that "traditionally" begins the Christmas shopping season. For this incursion on the real meaning of Thanksgiving we can thank Macy's and its iconic Parade, that began in 1924, with the purpose of linking the department store and the run up to Christmas in the minds of the public. This year the desire to begin raking in the bucks has moved into Thanksgiving Day itself, with workers at Walmart and some of the other retailers protesting at being called in to work at an hour when their family gatherings are still in high gear. I would like to hope that the opening hour for the "Black Friday" shopping orgy will be pushed back into Friday and leave the holiday alone -- but my instincts tell me that may never happen.
As a kid, I worked on the Macy's Parade. I had an aunt who was secretary to one of the Macy execs, a great nephew of brothers Isidor and Nathan Strauss who bought Macy's in 1902 and established its flagship store at 34th Street and Broadway in 1905 (Isidor and his wife Ida famously went down with the Titanic on April 15, 1912). I went into Manhattan to work on the Parade with my aunt for several of my late grammar school and early high school years. It was always exciting. As I got older and proved my responsibility, I was given assignments to shepherd notable performers from their dressing areas to the store's Broadway entrance where acts that didn't come downtown on parade floats would perform. Among them were the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and Hugh O'Brian, famous as Wyatt Earp for seven years on TV. Afterwards, there was always a reception up on the executive office level where nobody particularly cared if I managed to get some champagne into a plastic cup. I have always loved champagne!
The Parade's link to seasonal merchandising was vividly demonstrated one year -- I suspect it was the year of President Kennedy's assassination -- when Macy's considered canceling the Parade. The other major department stores in the city, Gimbels, Stearn's, Alexander's, Bloomingdale's, etc., etc. pleaded with them to go on with the Parade as it so symbolized the beginning of the Christmas shopping season that they feared economic disaster if it didn't happen.
I don't actually watch the Parade much these days. When I worked on it, the acts performed live and faced the crowds in the stands in front of the store. Now they face the TV cameras in Herald Square. People in the stands get to see their backsides as they lip-sync to their pre-recorded, heavily mixed and edited performances. I guess I just don't like that there's so much electronic mediation and distancing of the magic of the performers from the children who were originally seen to be the Parade's main audience.
Sorry for the long-winded comment. Happy Thanksgiving!
As for John McCain, maybe we're just not bright enough to understand. Are brains not necessary for vice president?
Not to exacerbate your feelings about the parade but it has gotten even father removed from the original. This year the live performances were broadcast from the theaters. Only the "drop in" guests were actually visible to anyone attending the parade.