Just for a change, today I’m going to talk about something I like.
I really like Thanksgiving.
I like the menu; I like getting together with family; I like people flying or driving in for a real homecoming; I like the parade; I like the weather – crisp and fally, or even if it’s gray and wet, it’s too early in the season to be sick of it; I like the timing of a holiday followed by a long weekend to recover; I’m even not as annoyed as usual by the football someone might insist on putting on TV (just keep the sound down, please).
For us Jews, Thanksgiving is an uncomplicated treat as we enter the “um” season. “Got your tree yet?” “Um…” “Where are you going for Christmas?” “Um…” “Mommy, is Santa coming to our house?” “Um…” Of course many people assume that everyone else is celebrating Christmas, and that’s fine. I’ve never met anyone who minded being corrected in that assumption.
The compensation for being odd-man-out at this time of year, and excuse me, my frazzled Christian friends, if I gloat a bit, is no stress. Thanksgiving is like a lower-stress Christmas. It’s the “joy” without the “oy.”
No expectations: after November, no more tense or otherwise required family gathering; no need to buy the tree, decorate the tree, hang the lights, tack up the stockings; no presents for everyone (sure, too many for the kids at Hanukah and whatever other friends and family you select, but no big obligatory list); no traditional foods to prepare for Christmas Eve, for Christmas breakfast, for Christmas dinner. No requirements. (And yes I know, many of you of course enjoy it, and yes if we’re lucky we do enjoy an invitation to share parts of others’ celebrations.)
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, gives you the holiday highlights in a pretty simple format. Not too many required rituals – decorating might simply be getting out the increasingly tattered construction paper turkeys made from a hand tracing. Just one huge meal, usually cooked by one beleaguered but uncomplaining person (woman), the family gathering with its pleasures or pains, and then an easy slide through the holidays until it’s time to worry about a New Year’s Eve date.
(Thanksgiving is an important ritual too in Barry Levinson’s movie “Avalon,” about a Baltimore Jewish family, if you’re looking for a good movie to watch while you digest.)
Who can argue with a big meal and loved ones gathering? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all celebrate it that way? In the meantime, I’m going to think about what I have to be so very thankful for. I wish you all good turkey, or the vegetarian equivalent.