Thanksgiving is not only about gratitude, family, food, yadda yadda. It's also about paganism, hook-ups, genocide, and perennial faceoffs between anti-turkey activists and meat-eaters. The Atlantic Wire has sifted through the mess to bring you the best and the bizarrest reflections on the holiday. Seven conversation topics to liven up that lull between courses:

  • 'Thanksgiving Should Teach Us All to Be Afraid'  Think fear, not gratitude--that's the conclusion of former Thanksgiving-hater Robert Jensen,  who thinks Americans' inability to come to terms with their forefathers' extermination of indigenous peoples suggests "an empire in decline." This former Thanksgiving-hater turned Thanksgiving-fearer thinks it's impossible to strip the celebrations of their genocidal overtones. Instead, he offers ideas he and "allies in Austin" have come up with for a more productive November Thursday, to remember American injustices against not only the Wampanoags of the First Thanksgiving legend, but against every group oppressed by America.
  • Alanis Morissette Suggests Gratitude  At The Huffington Post, David Wild whips up a playlist to put you in a grateful mood--23 songs with "thank" or "thanks" in the title, as well as appropriately festive offerings such as "Kind and Generous" by Natalie Merchant, "Saved" by Bob Dylan, and "An Attitude of Gratitude" by Jimmy Buffet. Nothing says Thanksgiving cheer like Abba.
  • Pagans Protest  Patti Wigington addresses the concerns of pagan readers confronted with the troubling history of the holiday. Wigington instructs fellow pagans not to upset the family by refusing to attend traditional festivities--"it's not [Granny's] fault that you find Thanksgiving objectionable." Instead, she suggests a less disruptive approach: "Could you, perhaps, attend the gathering, but maybe instead of eating a plate full of turkey and mashed potatoes, sit with an empty plate in silent protest?"
  • You Can Die from Thanksgiving  Your food may be full of "toxic metabolites produced by fungi." So says WebWire, which has helpfully listed six contaminants that could render your fall festivities fatal. On the list: salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, mycotoxins, and allergens. That last one could technically mean "dust," but better safe than sorry.
  • Wafers at Thanksgiving and the Big Catholic Cover Up  Protestants traditionally have a strong claim to Thanksgiving through their religious ancestors, the Pilgrims. But philosophy graduate student Taylor Marshall explains a little-known scandalous fact: Squanto, it turns out, was Catholic, and the "first American Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida," capped off with a Holy Mass. The conclusion? "While Thanksgiving may celebrate the Calvinist Separatists who fled England, Catholics might remember the same unjust laws that granted the crown of martyrdom to Thomas More, John Fisher, Edmund Campion, et al. are the same injustices that led the Pilgrims to Plymouth." And if that's too much for you to memorize, just hang on to this: "'Thanksgiving' in Greek is Eucharistia. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ is the true 'Thanksgiving Meal.'"
  • How to Hook Up (And Impress Your Girlfriend's Family)  Dan Guttenplan offers a "Men's Guide to Thanksgiving Day." Do embrace the hookup potential of "Thanksgiving eve," aka Wednesday night. "If you're single, try to cross paths with the girls you once described as 'artsy' or 'creative.' Being artsy is cool when you’re 25. It means 'able to stay up past 10 p.m. because I don’t have kids yet.'" But don't wait until Thursday's dinner to make up with your girlfriend: it makes for bad scenes.
  • Why the Internet Will Be 'at a Standstill'  At Comedy Central, Mike Pomranz gives an unsolicited answer to a question asked on a Yahoo site: "Will the Internet be open on Thanksgiving?" Yes, he says, but don't log on. "The Internet is primarily run by bloggers," he explains, and they'll "be sleeping in, hiding from their family," whom "they openly despise." Those remaining are "tech guys," who are "borderline morbidly obese," and will be busy spending "the most important day of their year ... consum[ing] more stuffing ... than the rest of America combined." If you want new online content, Pomranz advises, wait until Friday.