While living in Paris and writing for the New York Herald Tribune in the early 1950's, Art Buchwald wrote a column to try to explain Thanksgiving to the French. Some of his translations are hilarious if you know French, and some probably meant little, if anything, to the French who read the article ... that is, unless they knew English also. His article has been reprinted often by a number of newspapers and has been posted on enough blogs that I think it's safe to print it here with copyright info and a link to a repost of the article in the Washington Post from whom I got it originally 15 years ago. Being a French teacher, I just had to put in the proper accent marks.
À la Recherche du Temps Perdu
by Art Buchwald
Thursday, November 28 1996
The Washington Post
One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.
Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde), where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts' content.
They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Américaine) in a wooden sailing ship named the Mayflower (Fleur de Mai) in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pèlerins was when they taught them how to grow corn (maïs). They did this because they liked corn with their Pèlerins.
In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pèlerins' crops were so good they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more maïs was raised by the Pèlerins than Pèlerins were killed by the Peaux-Rouges.
Every year on le Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.
It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilomètres Deboutish) and a shy young lieutenant named John (Jean) Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant:
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