I had to wait until after the Thanksgiving holiday to judge it. It’s been a long time since I’d had a traditional Thanksgiving. The past few years, I’d been in Brazil, Argentina, and Brazil again, and in the many years before that, I’d spent it in New York, usually at some bar or restaurant rather than enjoying anyone’s home cooked meal. I don’t believe I’d flown home to see relatives since 2001. So, with a fresh Thanksgiving under my loosened belt, let’s break it down.
Time of year/day of the week. It’s hard to complain about a four-day holiday. It’s also hard to complain about a four-day holiday that adheres to my “holidays should fall on certain days of the week, not date” edict. Thanksgiving also occupies a position on the calendar smack-dab between Halloween and Christmas/Hannukah, etc., making it a comforting, calorie-rich portal into the cold, dead months of winter.
So what can we complain about? Well, for starters, it’s a pain in the ass. Personally, I think Thanksgiving should be on Friday, but with Thursday off as a travel/cook/prepare day. Though I suppose it would be easier for employers to welch on the Thursday. Maybe that’s a bad idea. Nevertheless, there’s just something irritating about the rush to fly, drive, and/or cook with so little lead time. Rating: 6.5/10.
Tradition. Little Earthquake believes that, whichever invisible man to whom you happen to pray or not pray, it is right to give thanks for your bounty of food if you are lucky enough to have a bounty of food. You can thank dumb luck if you want. So, the basis for Thanksgiving, largely uncommercialized, is a good one. Good also is the tradition of celebrating with family and friends (if you like them) – a reminder that human contact will always trump the sterilizing, impersonal glow of your computer, phone, or tablet. Cooking – a lost art in many facets of modern society – brings us together and helps us to appreciate good fortune. . Rating: 8.5.
Activities. Turkey is a mediocre bird, okay? It’s dry, and needs basting, stuffing, and sides of cranberries and potatoes to make it palatable. I think it’s silly to restrict Thanksgiving meals to turkey. Who made this rule? I recommend cooking whatever the hell you want. Try lasagna.
Football-viewing is always fun, even if it’s Detroit Lions football. Of course, you can always turn it off if that’s not your thing.
I noted Thanksgiving’s lack of commercialization, but in the past couple of decades the shopping day known as “Black Friday” has grabbed a disturbing foothold on this otherwise placid weekend. The two days currently occupy separate mental compartments in the collective imagination, but Black Friday gets way too much press these days. Retailers can barely contain their sad desperation to draw deal-seekers on this massive shopping day, although they still show surprising restraint in not encroaching (too much) on Thanksgiving itself. Shoppers – mostly crazy ones – are all too eager to comply, taking their marching orders from Macy’s and Penny’s to line up at 4 a.m. or whatever sickening hour they are told to arrive. And of course the media love to maintain an irrational focus on the events of nothing more than a day of shopping. You know the stories: Woman gets trampled, glass doors shattered, man tasered, child pepper-sprayed. The media love these tales from the dark side – they are the anti-Thanksgiving, a chance to show that the food, family, and humility of Thursday were a charade. On Thursday, we work in soup kitchens, but on Friday we have no compunction about stepping on each other for a good deal – any deal. All because we’re “supposed to” buy gifts for another holiday next month!
Overall. A lot of people have told me over the years that they love Thanksgiving because it’s so simple – you gather, you eat, you relax. I suppose that’s true. But does that make it an excellent holiday? Time was, families got together all the time to eat. As my mother recently told me, her Italian grandparents would host immense, pasta-infused, family gatherings in Kenosha’s Columbus Park on a regular basis (presumably weather permitting). Of course, they also had many more relatives under one roof; American family life seems more splintered today. (On the other hand, if you ain’t where you are, you’re nowhere.) I like Thanksgiving, but I don’t love it. Nevertheless, I’ll take a four-day weekend anytime. Rating: 7.
Thanksgiving. It’s kind of all right but not great.