How to Navigate Thanksgiving With Subtlety and Subterfuge


The mist rises over the waves. You step out of the on-ship training dojo and inhale the fresh morning air. This is the calm before the storm.

Thanksgiving is coming.

You close your eyes and feel overwhelmed. This holiday makes you lose your sea-legs. You whirl around and head to the meeting room. Today, you are joining the crew in a strategy meeting to discuss the looming task of greeting family on-shore, creating a proper route through the cities near your home, and gaining something from the whole experience.

You shove open the heavy door and are greeted with the familiar smell of treated wood. The captain sits at the table’s end, smiles and nods at the empty seat with your name etched in the headrest.

As you settle into your seat, the captain throws rolled up parchments onto the table.

One is thrust in your hand and you are asked to stand up and read it aloud. You roll it open and glance over the title: A History of American Thanksgiving.

“In order to fully appreciate why we bother with holidays like Thanksgiving, it’s important we know what it is and why we celebrate it,” the captain begins. “Will you enlighten us?”

It’s the first time you’ve had to read for the crew, but you find your voice and begin to read.

A Brief Tale of the American Thanksgiving

The first sentence sticks in your throat.

“Days of Thanksgiving were originally practiced many times a year by the Church… to replace all Church holidays – including Christmas and Easter.”

Someone calls out from the back of the room, “Looks like that didn’t work out so well!” and the entire room breaks the tension with a guffaw of laughter. You smile and exhale the breath you didn’t realize you were holding in.

The laughter quiets, and you continue.

“As it turns out, we celebrate Thanksgiving based on an event we barely know about in 1621. A lovely lass by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale is who we can, well, thank for Thanksgiving. She scrawled long letters to five different presidents until it was made official by Lincoln in 1863.”

The crew isn’t too interested in dates, so you wrap it up.

“In other words, Thanksgiving is more about what we want it to be – and what we make of it – than its true origin story.”

You seat yourself and watch as the captain hands off another parchment. “Loren?” she says, “I’d like to hear about the major Thanksgiving events we should all be savvy about.”

She strides around the room and you attempt to shrink into your chair as she passes you. “Why do we care about Thanksgiving events we may never attend?” she demands of the room, her arm making a sweeping gesture as if the answer were physically present.

The captain surveys the room, hands on her hips. Before you realize she’s moved, she’s right behind you. You hate when she does that. She leans down and whispers in your ear. “Your voice is already warmed up. Please share.”

“We should be savvy to the culture around us,” your voice cracks, “because we make the most out of our surroundings.”

“Why do we care about our surroundings?” she insists.

The whole crew knows the answer, and you shout alongside them: “We are pirate ninjas!”

Loren stands up from his bench. The room drops to a hush. He barely glances at his parchment as he smirks and begins to share in his confident drawl.

“The landlubbers enjoy themselves quite a bit on the Holidays. The highest bar sales of their year occur the night before Thanksgiving,” he pauses for dramatic effect, eyeballing in the direction of the barroom.

“I wonder what that’s about,” a voice piped up.

“Well they don’t live on their own terms,” spoke another. “We drink when we like. They drink when they can.”

“Shut it,” said the captain.

“As I was sayin’, there’s a few landlubber parties you should be privy to,” continued Loren. “They’ve got this parade with the enormous balloons, run by one of the big companies they call Macy’s.”

He stroked his parrot and said, “It was better back when they had the real animals. Those first three years. At any rate, it’s a force to be reckoned with. They tune in from everywhere to watch. They call it the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you’ve not been at sea for more than a year you probably already knew about it.”

“They’ve got those blasted pigskins as well,” Loren began to pace around the room, “with several major games they like to play on Thanksgiving. To the chagrin of many o’ captain’s wife.”

The captain makes a motion as if to resume her conversation, but Loren raises his hand.

“One more thing,” he said, his voice growing grim, “Beware of Black Friday. In ways it’s worse than the Black Spot. The people are crazed, smaller ones get trampled, and they go to war over a few extra sales. Beware of going out on the day after Thanksgiving.”

The captain nods in agreement. “Now that you’ve been made awares of the finer matters, I’d like to move on to why we’re really here today: to learn how to navigate the muddy waters of actually living through this holiday. As pirates, I expect high appreciation of a holiday. As ninjas, I expect subtlety and tact from all of you.”

As she finishes her sentence, she throws a pointed glance and a raised eyebrow in your direction.

You sit up in your chair and pay close attention.

(Several hours later…)

You peer through your telescope, land is in sight. For the next week, the crew will disperse, spend time with their families, and roam the land before coming back to sail once more. Communication will feel sparse, although the carrier pigeons will keep you abreast of any important goings on.

Your copy of the final parchment sits heavy in your back pocket.

Its contents are as follows:

Thanksgiving Espionage & Survival Techniques

The contents of this document are to be held in the highest of accounts. Keep this parchment with you as you roam the lands, until the days of the Thanksgiving holiday have ceased. This parchment holds highly regarded secrets, from the subtleties of dealing with nefarious family members, to the subterfuge required to navigate the lands with the highest success rate.

Land travel: Safe voyages and hauling wind.

One of the least glorious parts of the Thanksgiving experience is the route to and from your final destination.

Here are some guidelines to successfully navigating on land, based on the calculations discovered by our recent espionage team efforts.

Findin’ the road less traveled:

You will find yourself in a mad rush from one hearty home to the next. The worst times you can set sail towards your destination are:

  • Wednesday 10am-9pm
  • Thursday 9am-3pm

Your best chance will be to hoist anchor on Tuesday. If you must travel during the rampage, use your navigational savvy to avoid the major cities. You can use the magical tool of Google Maps.

  1. Route your trip.
  2. Drag and drop the route to avoid major cities.
  3. Fine-tune the route to avoid major freeways.

When the festivities are over, you’ll find yourself needing to find your way back home. For the best luck, make your way home on Friday in the noon or afternoon (or wait through till the end of the weekend, if you can be putting up with your home crew that long).

Black Friday is another reason to avoid major routes in the morning on your way home.

Worst Thanksgiving travel times: Wed 10am-9pm, Thurs 9am-3pm. Try leaving Tuesday instead!

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Findin’ your sea legs.

When you sail through strange waters, it’s best if you come savvy.

  • Pack yourself with the proper compass tools of the age. A preloaded map, a GPS and your original route charted will serve you well.
  • Designate a crew member of your vessel as the navigator. You’ll want hands on the helm and eyes on the road ahead, rather than fumbling with one of those confounded GPS devices.
  • Before you shove off, check your vessel. You should have a full tank of fuel, wiper fluid, inflated tires and the like. If its a long journey, you may need to get an oil change before you hoist anchor.

For best results during the trip, make sure that your car is well ventilated and that the crew aboard has adequate entertainment and sustenance. On particularly long journeys, be sure to pull over on the hour to avoid stir crazy frenzies.

Thanksgiving travel safety tip: Assign a navigator, and have a pre-planned route to avoid traffic.

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Yer Hearties: Relations ‘tween family, friend and foe.

During the time of the Thanksgiving Holiday, you are sure to run into a wide range of faces. These will range from friendlies, to those you’d rather stay on ship to avoid.

A word from the wise on these tales of old:

  • The best way to find your peace be showin’ your pearly whites even if your heart don’t feel it. Often times, your wrong rubbings with a lubber is from a misspeak. Smile and get along for the sake of your home crew.
  • If a particular knave continues to do you wrong, not just by misspeak or mistake, then the time may show itself that you should speak with him about it. Do not blow the knave down, because our aim is to discover the truths behind the man. Come about in a gentle manner, and be ready to learn that it was you in the wrong.

In the worst of tales, you may find yourself at an impasse.

Here’s your cheat sheet:

  • If it’s not important, let things slide and show the pearlies.
  • If it’s important, approach the foe with a white flag and try to find your common ground.
  • If there is an impasse, refer to the next section.

Family is important. Don’t let details get in the way of your relationships this Thanksgiving.

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Friendly fire within the home crew.

In the event of an impasse, you are under what is called friendly fire within the home crew.

There are three questions you must place to yourself in this case, before determining how to proceed. Before that, I caution you to keep a cool head and give yourself time alone on the poop deck before you make rash orders.

  1. Is a cease-fire worth the process of parley?
  2. Do you want a parley for yourself?
  3. Are you offering parley for their own good?

You must assess whether a cease-fire is possible, and whether the process of parley will leave so much destruction and mayhem that it is not worth it. In this case, it is not cowardly to run up the white flag and do your best to avoid further fighting by steering clear of their vessel.

You should also decide whether you’d like a parley to stay in good standing with the crew member. If you desire to maintain such a friendship, you must pursue a cease-fire. Remind them that you’re on their crew and want to move into better waters.

If a cease-fire is for their own good, or for the sake of those who may be hit by wayward shots, you may attempt to reason with the offending crew member. In dire cases, you may need to let them believe they’ve won before they hurt themselves.

Whether you’re the Captain or the cabin boy, make yourself of use to the crew.

It passes over many a crew member’s mind that the stress of the Thanksgiving preparations may be lightened should they step in and become useful.

  1. Swab the deck repeatedly through the day to keep a clean environment.
  2. Give quarter to those you find yourself working with.
  3. Help heave down and clean the ship at day’s end.

Want a smooth Thanksgiving? Lend a helping hand out in the preparations.

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Good Grub: Eating and feeding the home crew.

Eat well.

If you find yourself in charge of food preparation, it will put your mind at ease to prepare many a sunrise before the day.

To follow the traditions of the lubbers, you will find yourself boot deep in turkey fixins and cranberry sauces.

Easiest Turkey Recipes

The average landlubber believes that the turkey they throw down the hatchet on Thanksgiving is what makes them so tired after the grubbing. This is a myth.

(Now that you know the lubber’s are full of it once the meal is over, you can get to the preparations.)

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The basics:

Save hassle and get a turkey bag.

  • Oil the turkey
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Stuff with onions and celery
  • Cook according to the bag box


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Shopping list:

  • 1 turkey, 12lb
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Onions
  • Celery




Thanksgiving myth buster: Turkey does not make you sleepy. Neither does it have to be hard to make.

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Easiest Stuffing Recipes

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The basics:

  • Cube bread
  • Sautee onions and celery
  • Combine all ingredients in bowl
  • Bake


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Shopping list:

  • White bread loaf
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Butter
  • Parsley
  • Turkey or chicken stock




Easiest Cranberry Sauce Recipes

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The basics:

  • Heat ingredients for 15 minutes in pot


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Shopping list:

  • 12 ounce package fresh cranberries
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar (optional)
  • Orange juice (optional)




Going on account: Thanksgiving is here.

This parchment is to help you prepare for the events which are to come.

Once the storm has begun, there are many emotions that may well up within you. As you try to sail through smooth and rough waters, you should remember that in all things this holiday is a time to appreciate what you have.

The home crew may be a pain in your keester, but at least you have a home crew.

The turkey may come out tasting a bit like barnacles, but at least you are under a roof, surrounded by your home crew.

The trip may be long and strenuous, but at least you had the trip to make and the means to make it with.

As members of the pirate ninja crew, you will always look to the good in your situation (whether it is easy or not).

When you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to remember who you are and everything you have to be thankful for. Appreciate the home crew you have, even if they’re not perfect.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a great time to reconnect with members of the home crew you could stand to be in better standing with. Make the effort to reach out and change one relationship for the good.

Document your event: the feast, the grog, the home crew, the festivities – good and bad. Get the home crew together to play games, laugh and smile, hug each other for pictures and let go of the details bogging your ships down. Throw up the white flag, remember what it means to be part of a home crew.

If you don’t find yourself with a grog blossom, you’re hornswaggling yourself. Strike the colors and let go of the details.

(If you are comfortable with it, share your favorite memories of this holiday on the Facebook page!)

– Anne
Captain of the Pirate Ninjas


Photos: Turkey Stuffing Cranberries Parade Pilgrims Cups