Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why Thanksgiving Is My Favorite Holiday

So we Americans decided long ago that we would set aside a day to be thankful.  I presume it was originally intended as a statement of gratitude expressed to a higher being, when the early colonists first gathered to celebrate a successful conclusion of the fall harvest. I also presume that during this very first extended family gathering there must have been a collective sigh of relief, when it turned out that uncle Harry's and cousin Jimmy's butter knife wounds were not as fatal as they first appeared.

Being grateful is no doubt an very useful evolutionary trait.  I believe it makes us unique on this planet.  Case in point, every Thanksgiving it is over a quarter-billion humans who join their families to celebrate with a fresh out-of-the-oven turkey, not the other way around.  In fact, much more so than the threat of global warming, I say it's imperative to our survival that we prevent turkeys from learning how to give thanks.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for three reasons: first, the name of the holiday itself is gracious, unassuming.  Based on the name alone, it practically earns the right to a hearty celebration.  Other holidays typically have complicated and depressing names, such as, "National Observance of Overworked Laborers that Haven't Yet Been Passed Over or Crucified."  The name of those holidays alone makes you want to march to the drugstore and get yourself some Oxycontin -- ensuring of course that you spend the entire four-day weekend petting your plants and watering your dog.

Second, and speaking of a four-day weekend: has no one else noticed that Thanksgiving is the only holiday in America that offers an automatic four day weekend?  Yes, with the exception of prisons, forced labor camps (aka retail stores), and football players, everyone else is appreciatively offered a full four-day weekend.  That's an honor not even granted to the mother of all holidays: Christmas.

Which brings me to my third, and arguably most controversial reason: Thanksgiving is not Christmas.  Now, before you report me to Macy's, hear me out.  I do not hate Christmas. And I do not hate Capitalism. But putting the word "shopping" after the word "Christmas" is like putting the word "legitimate" before the word "rape" - it does not clean it up for you.

So just as I was getting ready to once again enjoy my favorite time of the year, with no traffic, no stores open, and as few TV commercials as I can possibly prevent without being kicked out of the house, here comes "Black Thursday". And there goes the neighborhood.

If you love to camp outside a store on any given black day, and you don't think twice about stepping over a little old lady to snatch one of those half-priced 50-inch plasma flat screens with a built-in popcorn maker, does that make you a bad person?  Aside from the stepping over the little old lady part, not necessarily. But my bet is that it does not make you a happy person either. And therein lies the rub: unhappiness is contagious. 

I can of course choose to bitch about what seems to be a depressing trend, but I realize that it is probably the most contradictory thing I can do. So instead, to be consistent with the name of this wonderful holiday, I would like to wish a special happy Thanksgiving to all those parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who refused to conform to the pursuit of unhappiness.  I am very grateful for the sacrifice they made when they left everything behind in the name of change.  I am inspired by their commitment to improve what some of their peers considered too sacred to change. And I'm just as thankful for those who protected the newfound freedom that came as a result of change, even when they knew it might cost them their lives.

A happy Thanksgiving of course to all my family and friends, thank you for your love and friendship.  And if you have read this far, I leave you with a classic Thanksgiving expression of relative love: shut up and pass the butter before somebody gets hurt.

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