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How was your Thanksgiving?

December 01, 2003

So how was your Thanksgiving feast this year?

Was it everything you hoped for? Was it a great gathering of friends and family? Was it postcard perfect?

It wasn't?

Why not?

Every friend I talked to had the same feelings about Thanksgiving. It was either OK or it was a bit depressing or downright horrible. Every one of them. It's not just because I hang around with severely depressed people who find no pleasure in life. No I think it goes beyond their own psychosis.

Oh there is an occasional friend that had a miserable Thanksgiving because they got all drunk and had sex with their sister's husband and the sister got mad and shot her husband and my friend's dog...again. All because they didn't learn the lesson last year that you should never knock over the gravy train because it will stain the tablecloth.

Why the heck do so many people end up sad being around their family and food? Why are others so sad they have no family or food when it seems to depress the people with the family and food? Because we've been sold a bill of goods what this dumb holiday is supposed to be about and the sad truth is there is no traditional Thanksgiving for most people. You can go through the motions, but you become depressed some little item you have no control over is missing.

You had a lousy time because your mind tells you how it is supposed to be and reality is unfortunately completely different. Only your mind was told that by marketing wonks looking to sell turkeys and other useless crap. I try to get the image out of my mind of what is supposed to happen, but the grim reality of the day rises up to get me. I can wish it all away, but I can't go shopping, I can't go out to eat, I can't do shit because the rest of the US is involved with this holiday.

What is Thanksgiving all about?

Well historically, it's about people reaching out to help others only to end up being killed by those they help. We celebrate the fact that we read in school how the Pilgrims were helped by the Indians and we invited the Indians to eat with us to celebrate their goodwill. We kind of gloss over the fact that we also sold them blankets infected with typhoid and systematically wiped them out whenever they were on land we thought might be better left to the people that better knew how to exploit it. A friend of mine thinks we should call it "Watch Your Back Day".

The problem is that people make billions on exploiting this holiday. It's almost impossible to get away from the message of how Thanksgiving is about friends and family in some sort of Norman Rockwell fantasy of how life should be. Instead of embracing our families and recharging our batteries for another year by remembering that which we have a reason to be thankful and how we can build on that energy and the energy we get from our families, we instead wear ourselves out from the stress of being around them, then we run head first into a mad dash of wild consumerism for the next 30 days where we buy gifts so that we can somehow recreate a Rockwell fantasy of how Christmas is supposed to be, but you know damn well it's going to be just as miserable as Thanksgiving was.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can't use this time of year as a way of giving thanks to the bounty of our successes. It's possible to reinvent a holiday and get away from the original meaning. It's sort of like we do with Columbus Day where we celebrate giving banks a holiday and neatly forget any murky details about how Columbus may have behaved after founding colonies here in the Americas.

So if you had a miserable Thanksgiving, ask yourself how you can make it better next year. What elements sucked for you? What can you do to change the spirit around so you celebrate your successes and what you have to be thankful for. It doesn't have to be about turkey, it has to be about yourself.

Or you can give up and hit the booze like I do.

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