A post-Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year Rumination
I hope everyone had a great holiday season and I wish you all a magnificent 2017.
And yes, you would be correct. I am a few days late getting to this; so let me admit to having been so fortunate as to require extra time to recover from my self-induced, so-not-going-to-happen-again-this-year food coma.
And it was while I was waiting for my blood sugar to return to normal, and my brain cells to find their happy place, I realized I managed to completely skip over an ancient and revered holiday tradition this year…
Yes, I managed to miss the après dinner, knuckle-baring sport of “Who Gets The Wishbone?”
And no, I’m not sad about this. No. I think, I am, hmmmmm, relieved. Which begs the question is there anyone out there, other than, obviously, me who apparently suffers from Wishbone Anxiety?
A quick aside here for a brief primer in case you are somehow new to this ritual.
From the turkey (or the chicken) comes the furcula, Latin for “little fork,” for the shape formed by the juncture of a bird’s two clavicles. (The fused bone is what helps make the bird’s skeleton strong enough for flying).
Etruscans believed (yes, it is that ancient) chickens were oracles who could predict the future. They used their chickens as walking ouija boards in a ritual known as alectryomancy or “rooster divination.”
A circle is drawn on the ground, divided into wedges representing the letters of the alphabet, food is scattered in each wedge and a rooster placed in the center of the circle. As the bird pecks, scribes note the sequence of letters and local priests use these “messages” to divine the future and answer pressing questions. (Egg primer, alarm clock … soothsayer, who knew?)
So when Etruscan Priests actually needed to kill a rooster or chicken, they laid the furcula out in the sun to dry so it could be preserved, giving people access to the oracle’s power even after they ate it.
And when the Romans “met” the Etruscans, they adopted some of their customs, including alectryomancy and making wishes on the furcula.
However, the Romans added a twist of their own. And thus, people went from merely petting bones to breaking them, purportedly because of supply and demand issue. There weren’t enough bones to go around for everyone to wish on, so two people would wish on the same bone and then break it to see who got the bigger piece and their wish.
And as the Romans traipsed across Britain, somewhere in between bouts of rape and pillage, they shared this revised furcula concept, which in turn eventually sailed with some pilgrims over to the New World, where it got renamed “wishbone” and super-sized (duh!) to a turkey.
And to this day, in keeping with tradition, you take this bone, allow it to dry out and then two people step forward, make their wishes and vie to break it. Whoever scores the bigger half wins, insuring their wish will come true.
Which is where my problem begins.
First of all, it really bugs me that it’s a contest. At least on one’s birthday the wish on the candles is yours. While playing wishbone, only the person who wrests away the bigger half gets their wish. Which is not only sad, it’s kind of an ugly competition to layer a possibly already complicated event known as The Family Dinner.
Now you might be inclined to scoff and dismiss my concerns as overreactions, but it is something we take seriously enough that there are actual articles written (see Men’s Health for one) on how to “win” the bigger wishbone piece. And while we all know “life” is about winners and losers, it just seems wrong to polish off a nice meal by making someone lose a wish.
And that’s just Phase One.
Phase Two is the actual wish!
Should I wish for world peace and for everyone to have enough to eat and warm clothes and other global altruistic wishes? Or maybe get more intimate but still totally altruistic like wishing good health for my family? But what if I really want something more specific for myself? Is it okay to wish for something less grand, like a new pair of shoes or, I dunno, maybe a best selling book?
Which raises the question, “if I use my wish for something so personally specific, will I be risking the Grantor of Wishes thinking I have poor taste?” Might I even incur said grantor’s wrath and possibly be assessed a subliminal penalty — which could conceivably ruin my life’s chances because I was too needy-greedy in the wishbone contest?
It’s kind of like what I call a ballplayer moment. You know, you’re watching the game when a player comes up to bat and is obviously appealing to their particular higher power to grant them a good at-bat. And I think, “with all the problems in the world that need divine intervention, do you really think your at-bat is top of the list?”
Of course the easy answer is to shrug all this off by saying, “who cares?”
And suddenly I remember my Grandma’s chicken and those wishbones sitting out, drying off, waiting for us… and I realize I kind of do.
So I am going to head out now, get a rotisserie chicken and on the off chance the Grantor of Wishes is reading this and laughing knowingly…. I really would like to wish for an end to world hunger…
…with maybe a side of best seller 🙂