Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why I have no Thanksgiving Posting (my Thanksgiving Posting)

Hey Everybody!  Let's all do the same thing at the same time!  On second thought, no, let's not.

At this time of year, most blogs dealing with food feel obligated to do a Thanksgiving posting.  They either have to share recipes or tips for the "Big Turkey Day" or talk about diet tips to "cope" with the event.   And of course, they have to use dorky phrases like "Mr. Tom Turkey!" or "T-Day" which about make me vomit.

This is my non-Thanksgiving posting.

I got off the holiday bandwagon a long time ago, for a number of reasons.

First, holidays in our house were not a happy time, but one fraught with stress and angst.  My Mother was stressed-out, trying to make the "perfect holiday" with her limited homemaking skills, and she thought every holiday was a judgment of her value as a person.  And she was right, too.  In our society, holidays become these judgmental times, where the person preparing a meal ends up screwed no matter what they do.  Your turkey is too dry, I'm afraid.  So holidays were never a happy time.

Second, Thanksgiving, as an event, sucks.  You sit around with relatives all day, then gorge yourself on food and then watch football or get bored to death.  Heavy consumption of alcohol is the only refuge, and that usually leads to trouble in most households.  You have a four-day weekend, and what to you end up doing?  Sitting around on your ass, overeating, watching TeeVee, or shopping.  All activities I detest.  That and visiting with psychotic relatives.  Thanksgiving really needs a makeover - perhaps fireworks, or a water slide, or something.  It is just as boring and dry as the turkey served.

Third, once you do something, like 20-30 times, the allure wears off.   I disagree violently with the idea that we should be forced to do something, over and over again, simply because "society" says we should.  And once you've done something every year for most of your life, it no longer is as much fun as it could be.  It is like birthdays - once you are over 10 years old, they are no longer exciting.

And let's face it, the fun in Thanksgiving probably was old hat by the time you were ten years old.   The Hallmark people like to make it seem like children can't wait until "Tom Turkey Day" and lick their lips thinking about all that good food!  Maybe that was true in 1910, when most people had trouble making their daily calorie quota, but trust me when I say that today, kids would rather go to McDonald's, and the idea of food being some special treat is lost on them.

And no, kids don't pine for candied yams any more than they do for "sugar plums" at Christmas.  We really need to stop living in the 1800's.

Fourth, I like to time-shift.  I learned long ago, while living in the Washington, DC area, that if you did things at times different from everyone else, you could enjoy life a lot more.  So I worked weekends and took time off during the week.  I didn't commute, but drove only during off-peak hours.  To me, the Nation's Capitol was still a sleepy small Southern town with no traffic, uncrowded stores, and abandoned parks.  To most "Normal" Washingtonians, it was a place where, no matter where you went or what you did, the rest of the population of the city was right there, trying to do the same damn thing.

So the idea of "Hey, let's all drive to work at the same time!" and "Let's all go shopping at the same time!" and "Let's all go on vacation at the same time!" became readily apparent for the idiocy it entailed.  And yet most Americans this weekend are traveling together, eating the exact same foods at the exact same times together, watching the same TeeVee shows, and shopping in the same malls.

Not very original, is it?

So how do I celebrate Thanksgiving?  Well, I don't.  I enjoy the day as with any other, and that's it.  I don't feel the need to cook a turkey or invite people over, or whatever.  I may work, I may relax, but I don't feel compelled to do what society says I should.  I am liberated from those silly expectations.

And if you think about it, the entire holiday is a fraud from the get-go.  The Pilgrims were an odd lot.  They fled religious tyranny in Europe, only to set up a religious tyranny of their own in the US.  Their religious beliefs would be alien to most Americans.  And it was their descendants who held the famous Salem Witch Trials.  And of course, while they suffered from religious intolerance in their home country, in the New World, they practiced religious intolerance of their own.  Frankly, I don't think I would have fit in well in the Pilgrim world.

And of course, the giving of thanks must be bitter-sweet for Native Americans, who saved the Pilgrims' lives that first cold winter and showed them how to survive in a harsh, new world, only to have their lands taken from them, in the start of what would be a Continent-wide genocide.

So historically, Thanksgiving is as suspect as Columbus Day.  And what it has morphed into - sort of a practice run for Christmas, is even worse.  Food, Football, and Shopping.  What's not to like?

As with Christmas, I think a better approach than trying to re-create a Norman Rockwell nightmare (and failing badly at it) is to look at the time off from work (if you are a cubicle dweller) as an opportunity for a vacation.  Fly down to the Caribbean and sit on a warm sandy beach, while a handsome waiter brings you tropical drinks.  Screw sitting around with your relatives - often the people you'd least want to spend time with, ever - eating the same old bad food and doing nothing for four days, other than maxing out your credit cards on "gifts" for the next holiday.

Some friends of ours came over for Thanksgiving a few years ago and were horrified to hear we were not serving turkey.  Nothing against turkey, other than it is a greasy mess to prepare and takes hours.  They literally were having a panic attack.  They felt that Jesus would come down from heaven and kick their ass for being sacrilegious on Thanksgiving.  And I guess if Thanksgiving were a religious holiday, he probably would, as we served tacos.

But contrary to popular belief, it is not a religious holiday, but a secular one, created during the civil war by Abraham Lincoln.  The trappings about the Pilgrims and all, are sort of tacked on history to give it some weight.  No, Jesus did not celebrate thanksgiving.

There are many alternatives to getting sucked into the "let's all do what society says we should" mentality, including doing nothing.  Taking a trip to an island paradise is what I would do, except I already live on an island, so I will do what I do every day - walk on the beach, take a bike ride, do a little work, perhaps, and just enjoy the unstructured time that is my life.

But perhaps that is too threatening for many people, who need the regimentation and structure of a daily schedule to live.  They need boundaries and rules and to be told what to do.  So they practice a "Traditional Thanksgiving" as that is what they have been told to do, and it makes them comfortable to know they are doing "what they are supposed to be doing".  And it scares them to death to do anything different.

I guess that works for some people.  Not for me, thanks.  And that is what I am thankful for!