Earlier this week, The Boy asked me an excellent question: “Why do people jump straight to Christmas as soon as Halloween is over? Why does everyone forget about Thanksgiving?” (I think it’s pretty clear that The Boy was raised by a middle child who is very sensitive to the fact that certain people–um, holidays–have a tendency to be overlooked, no matter how perfectly fabulous they might be.)
His question got me thinking: why is the seasonal decor aisle at my grocery store filled with Halloween accoutrements that morph into Christmas tchotchkes on November 1st, while the Thanksgiving-themed items are relegated to one tiny section at the end of that aisle? I understand the spiritual significance that Christmas holds for many of us, but let’s face it–that aisle at the grocery store isn’t filled with nativity scenes. That’s not the only reason why Christmas gets top billing.
So, just to even the score on its behalf–and to show my Boy that it’s always right to be concerned about the underdog–I’ve decided to devote one entire post to Ten Reasons to Love Thanksgiving. In no particular order . . .
1. Cranberry Sauce. While I could just make “Food” a category here, the fact of the matter is that there are certain things I eat on Thanksgiving that I don’t eat at other times of the year. I could, of course, but I don’t. Cranberry sauce is one of those things. This recipe for Orange-Vanilla Cranberry Sauce will help you create one of the most delicious Thanksgiving side dishes you’ve ever eaten.
2. Thanksgiving morning. When I asked The Hubs what he liked best about Thanksgiving, he thought for a moment before saying “It’s hard to explain. I like the feeling of waking up on Thanksgiving morning when it’s cold outside and the house is all warm and cozy and smells like turkey, and then it gets kind of steamy on the windows from all the cooking that’s going on–I don’t know what you’d call that.” Well, I call that Thanksgiving morning.
3. The parades. People of a certain generation remember a time when tv channels were fewer in number and kid-friendly programming was hard to come by. Apart from Saturday morning cartoons and the occasional Charlie Brown holiday special, kids’ concerns just didn’t occupy the airwaves. But on Thanksgiving, the parade balloons honored all your favorite cartoon characters–plus, it was easier to fantasize about living in New York City, just like Buffy and Jody did with Uncle Bill and Mr. French. (If you don’t understand that reference, you probably don’t remember life before Nickelodeon.) The Boy says this is his favorite thing about Thanksgiving.
4. Familiarity. We all eat dinner every day. Some of us even make dinner pretty much every day. What makes Thanksgiving kind of cool is that it’s just like a regular day, only nicer. It’s what every day could be, if we weren’t so busy with our crazy lives. The present-opening that happens only on Christmas often leads to a letdown that never happens on Thanksgiving. It’s hard to be disappointed with anything when your belly is nice and full.
5. Family. I didn’t grow up with a large, extended family network–I had my parents, my brother and sister, and that was it. Our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived in other states, and we saw them infrequently. When I married The Hubs–who has a huge extended family–I liked the fact that holidays meant big, noisy gatherings of kids and grownups. They made everything seem more festive, somehow. But then we moved away from his clan, and now we’re back to small Thanksgiving celebrations with just the four Foodies. We each get to choose a favorite side dish and be assured that it will appear on the Thanksgiving table, prepared exactly as we like it. When we’re done eating, there’s a quiet house in which to sleep off our food comas and no pressure to be social. Both kinds of Thanksgivings have their own appeal.
6. The spirit of cooperation. While I realize the story of the first Thanksgiving is a cleaned-up version of what probably wasn’t such a nice occasion, I still like the idea that different kinds of people can come together for celebration and teach each other something about themselves. While this might not be what Thanksgiving was or is, I still think it’s what Thanksgiving aspires to be.
7. The concern for others. In a perfect world, we’d spend more time thinking about how we can use our blessings to help others–but, of course, this isn’t a perfect world. It’s a very human place. Still, food drives and meal baskets start showing up around Thanksgiving as people turn their thoughts to those who might be spending the holiday without food. I like to hope this plants a seed of compassion that might sprout at other times of year as well.
8. The spirit of the harvest. That Thanksgiving table full of food is a good reminder of all the people who are involved with our food lives. When people grew their own food, the harvest represented the culmination of their own hard work; now that we’re all a little more removed from the production of our food, it’s easy to forget the many hands involved with planting, watering, cultivating, gathering, and transporting our dinner to the Thanksgiving table. Many of those people do that hard work for very little pay. I always remind the Foodie children that I’m only one of many people who made our Thanksgiving dinner possible, and that my job is very easy compared to theirs.
9. Jingo! When the Foodie children were in elementary school, my mom bought them a Thanksgiving game at an educational supply store–it’s a version of Bingo, but instead of numbers, the spaces on the cards are marked with items that teach kids a little about the history of Thanksgiving. (Anyone know what Frumenty is? Or who Massasoit was? If not, you need to play a game of Thanksgiving Jingo.) It’s become a Foodie family tradition to play a few rounds of Jingo after Thanksgiving dinner.
10. Gratitude. I don’t know about you, but I tend to take my life for granted–or to focus on the things that are going wrong on any given day, rather than the abundance of blessings that have made that day possible. Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge that warm bed I sleep in every night, the clean clothes I wear each day, the money with which I pay the bills, my good health, my loving family . . . the list goes on and on.
Feel free to add your favorite things about Thanksgiving in the Comments section. It’s time to give this terrific holiday its due.