If I was describing Thanksgiving to a stranger from an alien planet, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t sound like the best day ever, removed from all context.
“So it’s a holiday where you get together with all your friends and family. You do nothing but eat, drink beer, and drunkenly mock the government. At some point, there’s pie.”
“That’s awesome!”, you’ll (or my hypothetical visitor from Alpha Centauri IV) assert. “But you’re about to go on an un-American diatribe about how much Thanksgiving sucks, aren’t you? Reread what you just wrote, Byron, you beer-hating turkey-Scrooge.”
Ah, my alien friend, a minor correction. I can never hate beer. But you’re absolutely right.
I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving this year. Consider saving your sanity and joining me.
Anyone who’s ever had to play a big role in organizing Thanksgiving knows how thankless (no pun intended) of a task it is. Don’t think I’m speaking as someone without skin in the game. For the past two years, I’ve prepared my own Thanksgiving spread. Roasted the bird. Mashed potatoes, from the Yukons to the yams. Baked rolls. Planned out the evening. All for about an hour of actual action.
My older sibling and grandfather sometimes come over, making the gathering a grand total of three at the table. Rest of the family either lives out of state, works, or travels. For those of us who’ve lost a parent (my father passed away four years ago) or who are estranged from family (which I am not but a good portion of my LGBT friends are), holidays frankly suck already.
And, don’t get me wrong, I actually love cooking. Can’t say that I’m a budding Gordon Ramsey or any good, but I’m not opposed to sharing meals with anyone willing to eat them. But even if you’re lucky enough to have help with the prep work (and I should mention the older sibling helps, so I ain’t working alone here), it soon becomes an expensive (no one said buying enough food to feed an army was cheap) and time-eating endeavor. By the time you’ve made it out of the kitchen, which more closely resembles a war zone as opposed to any room where you would willingly cook, you’re not even able to really enjoy whatever you’ve made for long- cleaning soon awaits.
This holds true even if your entire extended family comes together, they’re uber appreciative and awesome enough to pull their own weight: someone still has to play logistics and organize the whole thing. Add in worrying about allergies and how just to prepare the stuffing so it best resembles great aunt Marge’s classic recipe and you’re well on your way, if you’re anything like me, to Xanax town.
Let it be clear. I have nothing against feasting holidays. Gorging myself beyond reason is a hobby of mine, after all. But even if you can get past the logistical nightmare that is organizing Thanksgiving in the first place, it’s only one month until most of us have to do it all over again, this time for Christmas.
I’m willing to bet a good portion of y’all, me included, even have a similar menu.
Mashed potatoes, turkey (maybe ham if you’re savvy), cranberry sauce, green bean casserole (if you hate yourself), pumpkin pie, etc. Thanksgiving, in this sense, is an inferior Christmas. Or Christmas, of all days, becomes an inferior Thanksgiving. And that simply can’t be. I may be a curmudgeon but I’m no Grinch. Why subject yourself to two holiday feasts within rapid succession? Save your time off work for Christmas (or whatever holiday you end up celebrating this time of year, my point still stands whether it’s Chanukah or Kwanza or so on).
With how expensive Christmas often is, you’d be better off saving all the cash you’d be spending just getting Thanksgiving off the ground for Christmas or, hell, doing whatever you’d like.
There’s also the little problem of what Thanksgiving actually celebrates.
You remember the old elementary school chestnut. Pilgrims came to America. They feasted together on turkey and cranberry sauce with members of the Wampanoag tribe. Birds sang and no genocide ever occurred on American soil.
It’s bull, folks. All of it.
For one, many historians claim that the original “Thanksgiving celebrations” that we consider the harbinger of our own traditions, marked by the Puritans, were in honor of a 1637 massacre of the local Pequot tribe. It wasn’t even an annual event. Thanksgiving, as a national celebration, would not be codified until 1789, when George Washington released a proclamation marking it as a sporadically celebrated holiday. It did not become a national, annual holiday until Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation making it so in 1863.
Even celebrating Thanksgiving tongue-in-cheek leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Join me, y’all. Even if the amount of time and effort isn’t enough to put you off, the historical context around turkey day is enough of a turn-off.
Kick back. Enjoy drunkenly arguing about politics without a pretense behind it. If you’re the more somber type, have a moment of silence instead. Hell, host an anti-Thanksgiving bash if you’re the partying type but, whatever you do, don’t take on the onus of organizing everything. Donate to an organization that supports Native American communities, have a few friends over, and ignore Thanksgiving altogether. Save your sanity for the other holidays.