Despite the most recent Gentleman Cthulhu comic I posted (“Giving Thanks” on gentlemancthulhu.com–which, actually, proved popular when Strange-Aeons Magazine re-posted it on their Facebook page), I don’t have a cynical opinion of Thanksgiving. Certainly, its origins are questionable at best, but the way in which its celebrated today I think can be taken separate from its beginnings. Family and friends get together to enjoy a bountiful home cooked meal (some do go out instead, I know) and enjoy (or tolerate) each other’s company. But that’s what holidays are supposed to be about at their heart, aren’t they?
Let me first say that I never much liked Thanksgiving when I was growing up. It didn’t have all the excitement and spookiness of Halloween (still my favourite holiday), and it didn’t have all the glamour of Christmas (the holiday my family always celebrated, though I recognise there are many others). More, I never much cared for turkey or the endless leftovers afterwards. However, as I grew up, I began to appreciate the holiday more and more, and I even began to enjoy both the turkey and the leftovers (even the yams–just this year–which I could never stomach before).
But I think my growing appreciation for the day was caused by more than enjoying a leftover turkey sandwich topped with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. I think a lot of it has to do with the absence of excitement, glamour and even the spookiness which I so enjoy on other days. In fact, I would argue that it’s for precisely that reason that more Americans should appreciate Thanksgiving and what it has to offer us.
It was a co-worker who pointed out just what this was a day before Thanksgiving. As he said, to paraphrase, the thing he liked best about Thanksgiving was that there was none of the bullshit that surrounds the other holidays. There are no gifts to give, costumes to wear, running around and decorating to do. Really, the entire holiday is centered around relaxing, enjoying people’s company and sharing a good meal.
When he said this, it dawned on me that Thanksgiving is the one remaining holiday that actually focuses on what the Holiday Season is supposed to. Though indeed I had long known the Season of Giving had gotten away from the “spirit” of the Holidays, I hadn’t ever looked at Thanksgiving in this way. Like most, I just overlooked the day entirely, but there’s something truly Dickensian about Thanksgiving.
There are plenty of people who realise that the Holidays are becoming exhausting for us all as we compete in the great rat race for the award-winning holiday house display, and tackle each other to get the last of remaining big ticket item of the season, but I think a lot of us have seemingly forgotten what it is we’re missing. Perhaps we’ve gotten so far away from the spirit of the Holidays that we no longer remember what holidays were like before the advent of consumer addiction. But, at least for Americans, there’s a perfect example just a few weeks before.
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that immediately following Halloween (the second biggest commercial holiday of the year), Christmas decorations and displays go up in the department stores. And more that the biggest shopping day of the year falls immediately following the one holiday no one has managed to turn into a commercial nightmare–some stores even opened their doors right around dinner time on Thanksgiving this year.
Because, if we forget Thanksgiving (the way we celebrate it, anyway), perhaps the Holidays will never go back to what they were meant to be about. Though, there are some stores which I did read about this year which not only gave their employees the day off, but also refused to put out their Christmas displays until after Thanksgiving.
I suppose some of us haven’t forgotten or are trying to bring things back, and that’s certainly a start. Though for me, I’d honestly enjoy the Holidays much more (and again, this is coming from the perspective of one who celebrates Christmas) if they were less about gift giving and more about kicking back and enjoying the company of the people in my life. It’s more fulfilling to the soul that way.