As an American, I am preparing for Thanksgiving. On the surface, this is a holiday that seems quite simple: we make a big meal, eat it with friends and family and honor the things we are grateful for. But there are a lot of factors that complicate this holiday.
it has some skeletons in the closet. If you grew up in America, you
were told the story every year about how the Indians and the Pilgrims
sat down together for a big feast. You were shown pictures of happy
people, each culture on it's side of the table, which was laden with
food. I even remember being told that the Pilgrims were getting hungry,
as it was nearing winter and they hadn't been able to get enough food,
so the Native Americans saw they were in need and invited them to their
With a little bit of digging, this story pretty
much falls apart. There are many different stories for where the roots
of Thanksgiving originate, from an all out slaughter of native peoples,
to a reformation of church holidays, to a harvest festival. While
Thanksgiving may only be commonly celebrated in a few countries, harvest
festivals and celebrations of Thankfulness are much more common.
how do we go forward, celebrating a holiday with such a beautiful
sentiment, when it is built on a lie (and potentially flat out
slaughter)? I think it is important to be aware of where our past lies,
and to acknowledge the things that have happened in the past, but I
also think that we shouldn't be shackled by the things our ancestors
have done. I feel we can take the spirit of a holiday and move forward
with it. For me, Thanksgiving is about being aware of the bounty in my
life and being appreciative of all of the blessings I have.
is a fairly traditional 'family' holiday. While there are definitely
other holidays that bring families together, Thanksgiving is pretty
family-centric. This can be problematic for many people who don't get
along with or are estranged from their family. In fact, this has led to
a counter-holiday known as Friendsgiving. Let me just say right
here....I hate the name Friendsgiving! I am a firm believe that family
is who you make it....and friends can be family. Thanksgiving might
have originated as a family dinner, but most families also used to eat
family dinner every night. Thanksgiving was a bigger dinner, with more
extended relatives invited, but it was also expected that people would
more or less be civilized. I don't think some families remember that,
and family gatherings can be a time to bring up every slight or argument
that has ever happened.
This is very much not in the
spirit of Thanksgiving! I really dislike the idea of compelled family
events. They say that you have to love your family...but you really
don't. If your family is horrible, abusive, distant or otherwise not a
positive influence in your life, you are not obligated to them in any
way....dinner or otherwise! With all the focus on self-care lately, I
think it's funny that many people don't make the connection that
sometimes it is absolutely the best thing to do to not subject yourself
to a toxic family environment.
Of course, it's not
always as clear cut and simple as that. Sometimes, we may love part of
our family, but we have those one or two people who go out of their way
to give us grief. We may need to talk to the other people in our
family, and make sure they are aware of the situation. We may have to
set firm boundaries: either everyone is civil and polite, or I can't
come. If it is more than just words, if someone has caused you harm
(physical, mental, emotional), you may need to make it clear that if
they are attending, you won't be able to come.
think that more and more people don't live near their family. We may
not be able to spend holidays with our family, and yet we yearn for that
closeness and community. By all means, celebrate with your friends
(just please, do we need to have silly words for it?). When I was a
teen, I had a lot of friends in the military. None of them were near
their families, and for many it would be the first year they weren't
home for the holidays. Some got to go home on leave, but some didn't. I
remember I was always allowed to invite one or two home with me for
holiday dinners. My mom didn't want people to have no where to go.
Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, commercialism has been
trying to interfere in our holiday celebrations. Sure, Christmas may be
a bigger consumer holiday, because everyone is driven to buy more and
for more people, but Thanksgiving is the one where the actual main part
of the holiday (the big dinner on Thursday) is being ruined by sales and
stores that are offering crazy deals and prices to lure you away from
your family, away from your holiday and out into the stores.
detest Black Friday now. And I am a huge bargain shopper. I love
shopping, whether or not I have money. I just like wandering around
stores looking at stuff! When I find things on sale, that is exciting
to me. The idea of Black Friday sales, even if you have to stay up to
get the best deals at 12:01, has a certain appeal. I have done it,
several years back, and it definitely gave me that thrill of the hunt
What I abhor (big hateful words....this really
upsets me) is that the sales are creeping further and further. I saw
advertisements for 'Black Friday' sales that started on Monday. It
makes me want to scream out loud! It's called Black FRIDAY...that means
it should be on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And as much as the
whole-week sales make me twitch, it's the ones that happen in the
afternoon/evening of Thanksgiving day that really piss me off.
most holidays, the stores are closed during the actual holiday. Some
select 'basic necessity' stores and of course things like emergency
services are open during holidays, but almost everything else is closed
out of respect for the workers and their desire to be home with their
own families and enjoying the holiday.
Then there is
Thanksgiving. More and more stores are open all day Thanksgiving. Not
only does that mean that all the workers can't be celebrating the
holiday, but it also means they expect everyone else to come and shop
during the holiday as well. It creates this sense of priority, as if
shopping and saving money is more important than spending time with your
loved ones. And what makes it even worse, is the holiday effected is
Thanksgiving...the one where we are literally giving thanks for our
In a perfect world, people would protest this
incursion on our holiday, and they would stay home, and actually focus
on what is important. I understand that sometimes the sales mean the
difference between getting that gift that you really want to give
someone or not being able to afford it. Trust me, I absolutely get
trying to get the most out of your money.
But, I think
this Black Friday thing is representative of a much bigger problem in
our society. We have shifted our focus from caring for each other and
building meaningful relationships to buying other peoples affection. We
put so much importance on social status: who has the most likes, who's
gift costs the most, who gave the most presents...that we forget that
it's not about all of that. Why do we give gifts? It's not because
people need things. Of course, we all need things, but most presents
are things we want. We give gifts because we want to show the people in
our lives that they are important to us.
And we have
become too busy to slow down and see that spending time with someone is a
precious gift. It is the most precious gift we can give! We have a
finite amount of time, and being able to stop, to really focus on
connecting with another person, that is amazing!
am not opposed to gifts. I love to give and receive gifts! I'm not
opposed to buying gifts! I enjoy making things, but I also know not
everyone does. A truly thoughtful gift, whether bought or made, isn't a
great gift because it was expensive, but because it represents how you
feel. It is a physical manifestation of what you feel for another
person, that you are gifting them with, so they can know how much you
mean to them.
This is why I think it is so
important to be mindful about our holidays! When we take a step back
from the bustle, the rush to get all the foods read, the desire to buy
all the gifts at the lowest price, the need to please our family even
when it makes us miserable, we find the holidays can be truly magical.
love holidays. They are a step out of everyday normal life. We don't
always do huge things, but we do things that are uniquely US! We aren't
doing turkey, but we have a nice dinner planned. We will probably
watch a movie. It will be a simple thing, but it will be what make us
happy, what brings us together as a family.
encourage you to take a pause this holiday season. Stop for just a
moment, take a big breath, and think about what is really important to
you. What would make your holidays absolutely perfect? Look beneath
the presents under the tree and think about what memories you want to
create. Consider all the things you do in preparation of the holidays.
Are there things that you don't even enjoy, that you could let go of to
make your holidays better? Think about little ways you can make the
season better for all the people you care about, and all the people you
encounter. If we all focused on what was truly important...think about
how wonderful this time of year could be!