In search of ponies: Mascot work isn’t easy

They are included in all of the important days.

OK, so most of the time they are ON the table, but they are included nonetheless.

If they strictly went by symbolism, it’s a safe bet turkeys would never guess they were to be the guest of honor at dinners everywhere, albeit in the most unpleasant of ways.

Maybe it has something to do with their faces and back-end plumes adorning napkins, plates, centerpieces, advertisements, greeting cards and more — the universal sign for Thanksgiving.

It’s one of those things that kind of grew legs of its own in the nearly 400 years since the first harvest feast was celebrated, especially since it’s not even known with absolute certainty if turkeys were there.

Odds are, they were, likely hunted by the pilgrims for the feast, probably along with ducks, geese, deer, and, in true New England fashion, lobster and fish.

So why the turkey became the poster child for Thanksgiving is anyone’s guess.

It could have been a consolation prize for being unseated by the bald eagle as the nation’s symbol but even that probably didn’t land them their own holiday.

There is the fact that at one time a meat only enjoyed by the wealthy European aristocracy, turkey has transcended into more of a staple, included on restaurant menus far and wide and a long list of sandwiches, while duck and goose, on the other hand, have become far less common menu items these days.

But it wouldn’t be a bit surprising if in evaluating the critters at (or on) that first feast table some wise marketer/purveyor of traditions concluded that turkeys simple do a better job of representing autumn and a successful harvest season.

After all, lobsters just aren’t practical since they aren’t nearly as easy to go out and hunt for most of the country, don’t feed nearly as many people, don’t provide days of sandwiches after the fact and, quite frankly, can look a tad creepy in the middle of the table staring at the guests.

Besides, with their big round bellies and plump thighs, turkeys communicate food success better than any scrawny goose, fish or lobster ever could.

Turkeys aren’t the only critter that gets the pleasure of being a holiday symbol.

Christmas is practically synonymous with reindeer — yes people eat them too.

And, in addition to eggs everywhere, Easter tables have a longstanding tradition of including roast lamb – logical since the holiday has been fused with celebrating spring; incidentally the time of year when lambs are plentiful and the hens, they are a layin’.

There’s no question that being a holiday mascot has its perks.

It sure does come with lots of attention from elementary classrooms filled with children’s hand prints decorated like turkeys to television shows, movies, children’s books and of course the merchandising.

Even those slated to be the guests of honor at (for) dinner surely enjoy the fattening up period as the special day draws near, and, though they are a small percentage, some get fattened then pardoned at the last minute.

Being a holiday animal certainly isn’t an easy job, but for those who do it, there have been some whose fortunes have changed over time, whether their presence at the table has fallen out of fashion — lucky rabbit — or having them for dinner sparks controversy — turns out reindeer for Christmas dinner makes a lot of people angry.

The big bird, however — well-loved and a great centerpiece — is one of the few to enjoy two holidays, even if it doesn’t quite have the good looks to be embroidered on the stockings.


Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: or on the web at: