Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I wrote this editorial for work and a lot of the papers used it. Hope you enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

There is nothing more complex in this world than the holidays. Just the mention of the word “holiday” is enough to stir up emotion in anyone.
From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to New Year’s Eve, the holidays hold a special place in everyone’s heart. For some, the holidays are full of joy and frivolity. For others, they are bittersweet and tinged with sorrow. No matter whether you eagerly anticipate or dread the holidays throughout the year, one day in particular deserves reflection: Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the forgotten child of the holidays. The child that is overshadowed by the promise of Christmas, the distraction of football and the lure of Black Friday deals. Sure, pre-school classes make handprint turkeys and elementary children dutifully write down a list of things they are grateful for, but what does Thanksgiving really mean?

Cynics will point to Thanksgiving as the beginning of cruelty to Native American tribes or say it’s just a day for Americans to overeat and gorge themselves. Romantics will emphasize the blessings of family and how we should be gracious for our well-being. But let’s be honest with ourselves: Most people only appreciate the good in their life when everything goes wrong. So obviously, that’s not the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Perhaps that’s the beauty of Thanksgiving. Since it is not a holiday steeped in religion and holds its roots in tradition, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that can mean something different for everyone. For one family, Thanksgiving could be defined by the pies made once a year. For another, perhaps it’s just the fact that, for a few days each year, everyone is in one place. For one day, excuses about jobs and spouses and kid obligations are dropped and everyone simply gathers to be together.

Thanksgiving isn’t like Christmas. You can’t simply mail a card or have your secretary mail a box of months-old cocoa from some warehouse. You have to show up and be there.
You have to make the effort to try your mother’s casserole and listen to your Aunt Eva’s traditional excuse as to why the turkey looks more like roadkill than anything resembling poultry. As much as it may pain you, you have to gather.

But as you gather to dine with your family this year, maybe the good things in your life might cross your mind. Maybe instead of being angry that you can’t afford the newest gadget, you can appreciate the fact that you could afford a plane ticket to take your seat at your grandmother’s table. Even if you hate your in-laws, maybe you can appreciate the fact that they treat your children like the little angels you wish they were.

Or, if it comes down to it, just stuff yourself with pie and appreciate the fact you packed elastic pants in your suitcase. Perhaps to you, the true meaning of Thanksgiving is a bottle of Tums and a bloated belly. Whatever you choose to gather for, happy Thanksgiving!