Look, I’m no fan of turkey. I mean, sure, it’s tasty enough, but give me mashed potatoes, and I’m set. Always mashed potatoes, in a great big heap, with some gravy. And maybe some of that green bean casserole, officially the best use of green beans on the planet and most likely the reason they were invented in the first place.
Sorry–I got sidetracked. As you probably know, next week is Turkey Day, better known these days as Black Thursday. On the calendar it’s usually listed as “Thanksgiving,” but this is an antiquated nomenclature at odds with the more progressive capitalist (is that a contradiction?) view that understands that the fourth Thursday of November is the first day of Christmas. (In a decade, at most, the gateway to Christmas will be Halloween, but a few shreds of tradition still hold us back. That, and most people don’t like to associate skeletons with Christmas, Jack Skellington excepted.)
This used to make me mad, this disregard of Thanksgiving. Unlike others with similar complaints, I had another reason to treasure the day. I was born on Thanksgiving. Obviously, most years my birthday does not coincide with the fourth Thursday, but I have always felt a certain affinity for the holiday.
And I used to think: What a holiday to be associated with! A holiday of celebration, of gratitude and humility, of generosity and fellowship, a sort of precursor to Christmas but with a simplicity that the modern Christmas struggles to attain; a day to realize we are not our own, that everything is a gift, that as stewards of those gifts we must act wisely. It is a day when the simple pleasure of living and enjoying life is celebrated in gladness before our Maker, as the Teacher wrote:
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. –Ecclesiastes 3:18-20
But eventually I realized this was pure folly on my part, a stubborn idealism born of misguided motives. Thanksgiving is not a day to celebrate that even the irrefutable fact of being born was not your doing, never mind all the other innumerable blessings heaped upon your life. No–it is a day of gluttony. Hence, Turkey Day. And once I had that put in its place, its new role in the pantheon of winter holidays made all the more sense. For if Turkey Day is gluttony of stomach, Christmas is gluttony of the eyes, New Year’s the gluttony of guilt, and Valentine’s Day the gluttony of flesh.
Does this make me sad? Well, I reason that we no longer deal in holy days, or even, really, in holidays, but in days off and parties. Our goal is not to please some other, but ourselves. So why would it make me sad? It’s just a day to do something special, eat, drink, and be happy, for life is short.
And somehow, since I got my head screwed on straight, I can’t really see what’s the point of all these holidays, anyway, especially Turkey Day. I mean, I don’t even like turkey that much. Mashed potatoes on the other hand…