More than any other day of the year Thanksgiving is all about family traditions.
If you don’t believe that, next year invite the relatives over for Thanksgiving, serve them chicken and see what kind of response you get.
On Thanksgiving it's got to be turkey and the stuffing has to be prepared using great grandma's special, secrete recipe. There must be rolls, cranberry sauce, bean casserole and pie for dessert.
I understand all of this. What I don't understand is how some of the Thanksgiving traditions got started. Where did they come from?
For example, why is carving the Thanksgiving turkey considered a man's job?
And in this modern age where we make believe males do half the household work, do men still actually leave the football games on TV long enough to cut the meat off the turkey bones?
Norman Rockwell captured our American Thanksgiving table tradition in a 1942 painting titled "Freedom From Want." In the painting, the grandkids, aunts, and uncles sit around the Thanksgiving table as a gray-haired grandma brings out a perfectly roasted turkey on a huge platter. She sets the platter in front of granddad who is reaching for his carving tools.
It's a beautiful, traditional Thanksgiving image.
Me: "This year I think you should bring out the whole, roasted turkey to me on a big platter and I'll carve it in front of everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner table."
Wife: "Think again. You're not going to ruin my good linen tablecloth carving a greasy turkey on it."
Me: "Well that's how the granddad did it in the Norman Rockwell painting."
Wife: "That painting is fake."
Me: "It's iconic!"
Wife: "It's not realistic. The grandma has gray hair. Who says grandmas have gray hair? I don't. And you don't know that the granddad actually carved the turkey at the table. Maybe grandma just brought it out to show Norman Rockwell how it looked for the painting and then took it back into the kitchen and carved it herself."
Me: "I think the turkey should be carved at the table in front of everyone to make the whole presentation more dramatic."
Wife: "I don't cook the turkey at the table. I cook it in the kitchen and that's where you're going to carve it – and with some plastic on the floor because you're messy."
Most men are unprepared when the time comes for them to carve their first Thanksgiving turkey. We get no education on this in school. We have to study math, science, history and all kinds of things I have never used.
Maybe turkey carving should be included in our school curriculum.
Male junior high health teacher: "Okay boys. Settle down. Listen up. One day you're going to grow up, marry and there are some things you need to know about when you have a wife. I want you to pay attention to this slide show. You see this slide? Do you know what this is? This is a Thanksgiving turkey. One day your wife is going to hand one of these to you and today I'm going to teach you how to carve it. "
I actually don't remember my dad ever carving the turkey at the Thanksgiving dinner table or in the kitchen. In fact, my memory is our mother didn't let him anywhere near the carving knife or the kitchen. He was my hero and the best man I've ever known. But carving knives were not his friends.
His father did carve the turkey at the Thanksgiving table à la Norman Rockwell. He was no better at it than our dad. His wife and daughters could have done it better in the kitchen. But no one said anything because he was such a great, happy, loveable guy and if he wanted to carve the turkey, he carved the turkey.
So why do men carve the turkey?
I understand why men traditionally do some jobs. For instance, men usually drive the car because they like to be in control.
Wife: "That's not why you drive the car."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Wife: "You don't drive the car to be in control. When we're in the car together I'm in control. I tell you were to drive to and you take me where I want to go."
Me: "But that would make me your chauffer."
Wife: "It's taken you 34 years to realize that? And by the way, I appreciate it."
I Googled why men carve the Thanksgiving turkey and found some reasons:
Because carving the turkey makes a man believe he's actually the head of the household when everyone knows he isn't.
Because his wife asked him to.
Because carving the turkey goes back to our caveman instincts and many men haven't developed much father than cavemen.
This is just a long-shot guess, but I'm thinking these explanations came from women.
So we might never know for sure why men are traditionally the ones who carve the Thanksgiving turkey.
I mentioned this to my wife and she said it's actually obvious why men have assumed this role.
Me: "Okay then, tell me. Why does the man carve the Thanksgiving turkey?"
Wife: "Because the man isn't doing anything and his wife is busy getting the gravy made, trying not to burn the rolls, and finishing off the final touches on a dozen other things and she's too busy to carve the turkey."
Oh, well, yeah. There is that.
I know why I carve the turkey.
Because before Thanksgiving dinner even starts I get to eat as I carve.
Wife: "I thought there would be more meat on that turkey."
Fortunately, she's too busy during the carving to catch me.
Follow John Norberg's column at https://www.facebook.com/norberg.john