Did you know that there is another holiday between Halloween and Christmas? It’s called Thanksgiving, and it happens every year on the day before Black Friday. I don’t blame you for forgetting; the stores all went from costumes and candy to Christmas trees, reindeer and Santa overnight. I guess they couldn’t figure out how to sell us pilgrim costumes and candy corn for Thanksgiving, so they just gave up and moved on to the real holiday moneymaker: Christmas. That doesn’t mean that you have to do the same.
Despite what retailers would have you think, I’d argue Thanksgiving is the United States’ greatest holiday and completely worthy of your attention. This is one of the few major holidays that doesn’t have an explicit tie in with Christianity. Thanksgiving is open to everyone, which is almost never the case with other holidays. It’s supposed to be a time to reflect on the good that’s happened in our lives and to remind ourselves of what is really important. It’s a chance to heal severed ties and to come together under the auspices of one ridiculous meal.
For many, Thanksgiving is about the food and only the food, and it’s hard to blame them. The turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving and people are willing to travel great distance just to get a piece of that bird. A whole turkey roasted in the oven, deep fried, smoked or barbecued is a thing of beauty. It looks so delicious that they even make turkey shaped tofu for all my herbivores out there that don’t want to feel left out on the big day. Go ahead and get your Tofurkey on!
Turkey is great and all, but Thanksgiving is really about the sides. Everybody does them a little differently, but that’s just another reason to love this holiday. The classics like mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing are all going to be in the mix, and you know you are going to need some gravy with that. You better leave room on your plate for the candied yams, roasted veggies, collard greens, creamed onions, mac and cheese, salad and rolls. Oh and don’t forget, there is pie! Is your mouth watering yet?
Thanksgiving is a holiday that aims to bring families together and not just to eat. It’s a way for us to learn from our relatives and gain perspective on the world around us. How often do you hang out with raving lunatics and racists besides Thanksgiving with your crazy Uncle Larry? You don’t have to agree with what Crazy Larry says (and you shouldn’t), but at least it allows you to get an up-close view of how people like him really think. You’ll be better prepared if you’re ever confronted by people of your uncle’s ilk in the future, and I’m sure you’ll be thankful for the lesson you learned that Thanksgiving if that happens.
Thankfully, not everyone at the table will be a nightmare there to teach you a terrible lesson. Unless you were raised by a pack of assholes, there are probably at least a few decent people in your family. Thanksgiving is your time to share with them and to reminisce on the good times you’ve all had together. It’s also a time to forgive petty feuds with the ones you don’t get along with so well to come together as a family.
A successful Thanksgiving is one where people go home smiling with a full belly and enough leftovers to make one helluva sandwich the next day. It’s a day filled with funny stories and laughter, where tears might be shed, but they are tears of joy. At the end of a successful Thanksgiving, we all get to hug and kiss the ones that matter most to us.
An unsuccessful Thanksgiving, on the other hand, can be a real doozy. Fortunately, the biggest problems are easy to avoid. Traffic can ruin even the best planned turkey day dinner; so, give yourself extra time to get to where you are going. Once you get there, shouting about religion or politics is something that should be left off the menu. You don’t want to get crazy Uncle Larry started. Finally, make sure your turkey is fully cooked by using a meat thermometer. Nothing ruins a good Thanksgiving like a family trip to the ER to be treated for food poisoning from an undercooked turkey.
As you can see, pulling off a successful Thanksgiving isn’t hard. Basically you need to show up, talk, eat and leave, which is far less than is required of other holidays. That’s why I like it so much. It’s a low-pressure, chill holiday, unlike all of the others. You don’t have to buy a bunch of junk to make someone happy or spend hours decorating your house with lights for Thanksgiving. That’s what makes it the perfect holiday and one that is worthy of your attention. So, this year, don’t be in such a hurry to get to Christmas for the presents; take your time on Thanksgiving and appreciate what you already have.
**This column first appeared in print on page 7 of issue #279 (Nov. 21 – Dec. 5, 2018)**