I love Thanksgiving but I believe the celebration of it leaves something to be desired. The spirit of the holiday is well-intentioned; serving as a day to demonstrate gratitude for the abundance in our lives. We should all do that – and certainly more frequently than once a year.
My personal observation about Thanksgiving, however, is that there is considerable hypocrisy in the manner in which the holiday is celebrated…
Americans are part of a diverse world in what is probably the most diverse nation on the planet. We celebrate that diversity in our history, having welcomed those from all over as the “melting pot” of the world. We are finally embracing diversity in relationships and in family makeups. We generally make great effort to appreciate and embrace those with limitations or who are differently abled.
How do we celebrate all the diversity that defines our American culture? We gather together to eat carbon copy meals in a carbon copy manner! A “traditional” Thanksgiving is the absolute default. Variations from traditional celebrations of a holiday like Thanksgiving are frowned upon and are decidedly not diverse. What – no green bean casserole? How disappointing! No marshmallows on the yams? Heresy! It’s as if there’s a pre-determined way to celebrate the day and to vary it is not only considered non-traditional but represents a downright holiday fail.
Honestly – does everyone who toils in the kitchen to prepare a turkey – or gorges themselves on it – really even like turkey? If they did, wouldn’t they roast turkey more often than once a year? Or at least go out to a restaurant for a turkey dinner a few times a year? I think we have turkey on Thanksgiving because we think we have to have turkey. Not because we like – or even want – turkey.
Often, Thanksgiving gatherings include people who are together only because of a sense of obligation – they’re expected to be with the people for whom they’re expected to be thankful. Not because they genuinely yearn to demonstrate their thankfulness with those with whom they assemble around the table. I think we gather with those we do on Thanksgiving because we think we have to gather with them. Not because we like to – or even want to – gather with them.
Obligation is not a favorite concept of mine. It takes the heart and the head out of the equation, leaving only mindless obedience as a reason for partaking in the celebration. If diversity is something upon which we define ourselves as a nation and as a culture, and is something for which we’re thankful, it seems hypocritical to demonstrate that concept by squeezing ourselves into an identical box of celebration.
I hope that as a society we are better than that narrow, stunted celebration of what really could be a beautiful day. A day without stress. A day without tension. A day to celebrate with your whole heart those things for which you are TRULY thankful with the people who TRULY make you grateful to be in their lives. Eating the food for which you’re TRULY appreciative, wherever and however you want. In other words, keep the tradition of thankfulness – just lose the empty pretense. Free yourselves from the chains of obligation and tradition and, in my humble opinion, you’ll finally learn what it feels like to celebrate a day of genuine thanksgiving.