Elementary school was probably a long time ago for most of us, but there are just some things that stick out to you when you look back on those early years. Square pizza, epic kickball games, trading Lisa Frank stickers — and, of course, all those weird things '90s kids did in school the week before Thanksgiving.
The couple of days before Thanksgiving usually involved a ton of crafting, and not a ton of actual learning — which, back then, had us pretty stoked. But, looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe how many questionable things we did at school leading up to those two glorious days off where all we did was watch football and eat tons and tons of food. I mean, sure, it’s probably hard to explain to a bunch of second graders the greater repercussions of Caucasian settlers landing on an already inhabited land, and basically taking over. Our teachers probably thought it was easiest to teach us that the Pilgrims and the Native Americans just got along, and have us make turkey table décor out of household items and glitter. But that being said, some of the things we did to “celebrate” Thanksgiving seem downright weird.
My elementary school days were longer ago than I kind of want to admit, but here are a few of the stranger things I remember doing in school before Turkey Day.
1. We made hand turkeys
If you’ve ever seen a turkey in real life, you know that they don’t really look like all those crafts you made in school. When we were younger, it was amazingly fun to be messy, dip your hand in paint, and create a shape that vaguely resembled a popular wild bird. Remember painting your palm brown, and then your fingers yellow and orange before splatting it down onto construction paper? As we got older, it seemed like the turkeys got a little less messy (we started to trace our hands with pencil, instead), but a lot more elaborate. I’m sure many of us (cough me cough) went a little overboard with the feathers and glitter.
2. We learned Thanksgiving songs of questionable origin
Most elementary schools put on first Thanksgiving plays that, more often than not, included cute “Thanksgiving songs” about turkeys, and the like. The Pilgrims probably sang hymns, considering they were religious refugees, but our tunes were a little different. Like all songs a group of six year olds had to learn in three days, they were easy, and usually involved a lot of hand motions and repeated words. They usually left us pretty hungry for turkey too.
3. We made Pilgrim hats and feather headdresses
Looking back, this one makes me cringe. Aside from the hand turkeys, the other big Thanksgiving craft we did in the days before Turkey Day involved a lot of construction paper, and a lot of cultural appropriation. The Pilgrims' buckled hats and shoes were one thing, but asking me to make a Native American headdress always seemed wrong. Our classes were always split between Pilgrims and Native Americans (for the Thanksgiving reenactment, of course), and nobody really talked about the bigger implications since we were children.
4. We probably tried to do some other odd Thanksgiving craft
Obviously, the week before Thanksgiving involved a lot of crafting. Aside from the Pilgrim garb and paintings, we also usually made some sort of weird craft for the table. I remember making faux woven paper placemats that were always ruined after one spill, and a centerpiece turkey made from a toilet paper roll and leaves from the playground, among other things. And your mom always put it out for everyone to admire, but really, they were kind of weird, right? I mean something that was in your bathroom was then on the table where all the food was. Who came up with these things?
5. We tried to recreate the first Thanksgiving
The pinnacle of weird Thanksgiving school happenings is the yearly reenactment of the first Thanksgiving. First of all, the play was always a dumbed-down version of events, because we were kids. And second of all, the play always made the Pilgrims seem like friendly visitors, and not conquerers, while the Native Americans seemed happy to have them around. Considering all we know now about the history and politics of events surrounding Thanksgiving, looking back on all those plays we were roped into participating in makes me feel a bit icky. Middle school could not have come fast enough.