I don’t get Thanksgiving

When you spend as much time in the car as I do, driving the same route at least twice a day every day, your mind tends to wander and think of the craziest shit. My latest think-fest involves Thanksgiving as a holiday.

I Don't Get It

I don’t get Thanksgiving. I don’t understand why we celebrate it anymore. I don’t understand anything about it. It is like Columbus Day in my mind, a day most people agree should no longer be a federal holiday for many reasons. I would argue that Thanksgiving is the same though. It is a day where, in theory, we are giving thanks for the Pilgrims immigrating to these shores and taking advantage of the hospitality of Native Americans, who we later betrayed in as violent and brutal a fashion as we possibly could. Good times. Plus, I feel that the Pilgrims brought plenty of other problems with them in addition to their treatment of Native Americans. For a group that left a country due to religious persecution, they were pretty damn intolerant of anyone who did not think like them. This intolerance trickled into society in a way that leaves us where we are today – with the old, white, and wealthy trying to maintain all the power and making decisions that benefit them rather than anyone else. Why do I want to celebrate a group that left one country because they could not practice their beliefs without repercussions only to have them settle and apply the same hatred and punishments to those who do not exercise their beliefs? I don’t. Do you?

When I ask people about this, they say it is all about the food. Let’s look at that for a moment. The traditional Thanksgiving meal – turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, yeasty rolls with butter, cranberry sauce, some form of gourd dish, and a whole lot more – has nothing to do with what the Pilgrims ate all those years ago. We should be eating fish, shellfish, deer, duck or goose. There was no yeast bread. There was no butter. No cheese. No gravy. No potatoes. So what exactly are we celebrating with the “traditional” meal?  One could say it is about the harvest, but aren’t we doing that pretty much all summer long as various vegetables and fruits hit their peak? Even if it is a day to celebrate food, why does it need to be a turkey with multiple sides?

Furthermore, why do you need one day to celebrate food? For those of us blessed with the means to afford food, should we not celebrate each meal we have no matter what it is? When so many go hungry, isn’t Thanksgiving a bit of a slap in the face to those who cannot afford even the most basic of food? It seems a selfish holiday from that aspect, as we all gloat about our groaning tables and glut ourselves on more food than some families will see in a year.

Other people told me it is about spending time with family. Even with this idea, I question its validity. Everyone I know makes some joke or other about needing help to get through the day with their family. Between the jokes, the memes, and the general discussion of impossible family members, it would appear as if spending time with our family is the last thing any of us want to do. So why do we? If the holiday were all about spending time with family, why does everyone complain about doing so? Why are there so many “life hacks” about surviving the holidays with your family? Couldn’t you spend another day with your family? Birthdays? Anniversaries? Sunday dinners? Or better yet, spend the day with the people you love and WANT to hang out with for a few hours. Why do we force ourselves to be miserable just because someone tells us it is traditional?

So yeah, I don’t understand Thanksgiving. I can see it kicking off the holiday season, but really, I think Black Friday/Thursday do a better job of that than turkey and stuffing. We should be giving thanks for all that we have in our lives all year long, not on one day. We should be grateful for each bite of food we take no matter what day it is because there are too many people around the world who have nothing. As for the holiday itself, well, I think our society is wiser and more culturally aware these days. I don’t understand why we celebrate it anymore, at least in the traditional sense. As a holiday, Thanksgiving makes no sense to me.

10 Responses to I don’t get Thanksgiving
  1. Rhapsody in Books
    November 14, 2018 | 5:25 AM

    Totally agree!

    • Michelle
      November 14, 2018 | 4:28 PM

      I’m glad I am not alone!

  2. Amanda
    November 14, 2018 | 6:28 AM

    For me, most holidays (including Thanksgiving) have meanings entirely separate from what they were supposedly originally for. I celebrate Christmas and Easter when I don’t believe in God or Christian mythology in any way. For me, all these holidays are about family, and family traditions. Doesn’t matter if it’s turkey or going for a 5K together in the morning. But I can understand your sentiments – I feel the same way about the 4th of July, which is just about the worst holiday in my head.

    • Michelle
      November 14, 2018 | 4:29 PM

      I think if I had family traditions, the holiday would mean more to me. Also, if I had a close-knit family, extended or otherwise. I don’t have either, so while I am grateful for the extra days off of work, I do scratch my head about the purpose of the day.

  3. Kami
    November 14, 2018 | 11:40 AM

    The holiday is called THANKSgiving, so my family focuses on things we are grateful for, and there is plenty. We try to celebrate the gratitude part, and we don’t focus on the origin too much. I think we should be thankful all year long, but it is nice to have day set aside to ponder all our blessings.

    • Michelle
      November 14, 2018 | 4:32 PM

      I am a big proponent of recognizing all of our blessings throughout the year. I make sure my children understand how fortunate they are in life’s lottery as well, and I have many discussions with my daughter all year long about this. I don’t need a day to ponder our blessings because it is part of our daily life. This makes the actual holiday rather purposeless for me, which is where I struggle.

  4. Amanda
    November 14, 2018 | 4:00 PM

    I’ve been chewing on this post all day Michelle trying to decide what I think. I see your points -particularly about the origins. But I guess I’m good with having a holiday just to think about being thankful. I’m definitely trying to instill in my girls the importance of being thankful all year round, but I’ll keep the long weekend to be with my family.

    • Michelle
      November 14, 2018 | 4:38 PM

      I’m not wishing to get rid of my long weekend, and I appreciate and am grateful for any extra time with my immediate family. It is the forced interaction with extended family that has me questioning the holiday because it seems that no one is fond of that aspect of the day. As for the thankful portion of it, as I mentioned to Kami, this is a major discussion point with Holly throughout the year. It would be so easy for her to lose perspective since she is passionate about one of the more expensive activities a kid can have, so there are very frank discussions about the life lottery she won and why. Between that and daily gratitude journals, being thankful for just one day seems a moot point to me.

  5. Jenny @ Reading the End
    November 17, 2018 | 5:05 PM

    I don’t disagree with you, especially about the history of the holiday. To the question about family, I think a lot of people — I include myself in this, although not so much anymore because my extended family dumped me and made this a moot point — both enjoy spending time with family and find it stressful. Like, I used to really like seeing certain of my relatives while finding others of my relative very tiring to be around — but it was worth it to me, because I didn’t get to see the good relatives a lot. You know? So that’s a factor, definitely.

    • Michelle
      November 18, 2018 | 11:49 AM

      I can see that. If my own family situation were different, I suspect I would feel differently about the day and holidays in general.

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