Today is Thanksgiving. And in my humble opinion, Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. I'm still in Argentina right now, so this is the first Thanksgiving of my life that I'll be spending away from my family. So in lieu of a family dinner, in the spirit of the holiday, these are the reasons that I'm thankful for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is All Inclusive:
Everyone in the United States participates in this holiday. Christmas? Only Christians. (Or people who aren't Christian but want to get presents.) Easter? See Christmas and subtract the people who aren't religious. Halloween? If you're a kid trick-or-treating or young adult dressing up for a party, otherwise it's not a very big deal. New Year's? Half the country doesn't go out or stay up until midnight. And Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day are often just a day off of work. There's no other holiday that brings whole families together – siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents, young and old, all across the country. If you don't have a place to go for Thanksgiving or just came to the country, you can probably find a friend that will be glad to invite you to their celebration. No other holiday brings Americans together like Thanksgiving does.
Lack of Commercialism:
Thanksgiving signals the arrival of the holiday season, a month dedicated to the all-American pastime of consumerism. Christmas has become so overly commercialized that it has lost its original meaning. In the US today, people are more worried about shopping for presents and decorating their house than about celebrating the real meaning of the holiday (Christ's birth) with their family and friends. (This also applies to Hanukkah, New Year's, and all of the other holidays at this time of year.) All of the shopping and preparation for Christmas leads to high stress and by the time that the holiday rolls around, people are just glad to get it over with. None of this happens with Thanksgiving. It's pure. It's about family and food, without a present in sight. Which brings me to the next subject of discussion.
Thanksgiving dinner is like no other meal. There are multiple courses of some of the best foods known to mankind—succulent turkey, sublime stuffing, sweet cranberry sauce, rich mashed potatoes, the best salad you'll eat all year, three different types of pies, and a whole host of other foods that I'm either forgetting or ran out of adjectives to describe. It's literally the biggest feast that the average person will have all year. And somehow all of the food tastes better than it would had this just been another ordinary day; the gods of gluttony smile upon us when it's Thanksgiving.
NFL games on Thursday. Some of the best college football games of the year on Friday and Saturday. More NFL games on Sunday. And the Turkey Bowl in your backyard. There is literally nothing to do on Thanksgiving other than eat and watch football. As a college football fan, Thanksgiving weekend has a host of big games that often have implications for the (soon-to-be-defunct-thank-God-that-system-is-going) BCS race. I'm not as much of an NFL fan, but I can think of much worse ways to spend a Thursday than watching the Lions or Cowboys play after dinner while chatting with your family.
Actually Giving Thanks:
In the society in which we live, where the goal of our lives can kindly be called an enlightened form of hedonism, we actually take a day to reflect on what we are thankful for. Anyone living in the United States today has a level of material comfort that is unprecedented in human history. And we too often forget that. So I think that taking some time to consider our gifts is incredibly healthy for our country. In life we can get hung up on what we don't have. We focus on what we can get next, and believe that the acquisition of the new iPhone, the big promotion or graduation, or that new house we just bought will complete us, rather than being thankful for what we do have. We should more often take time to reflect on just how lucky we really are. Thanksgiving provides us an opportunity every year to do just that.
All of this has made me wish that I was back in the States to experience Thanksgiving dinner. But I'm thankful that I can still celebrate the holiday and tonight I will have a great meal at an Argentine parilla with friends. As always, thank you for reading.