Taking It Personally: On Why Thanksgiving Is So Popular

And it is about so much more than food.

As I was relaxing at my brother-in-law’s home in Amherst this past Thursday, I realized that Thanksgiving may well be the perfect holiday.

I don’t mean because I get a really wonderful supper with almost none of the work associated with such events when they are at my house. My brother-in-law is a very good cook, but there is so much more than that to this holiday.

It comes at a great time of year.

For students, the end of the semester is still far enough away that real worry has not set in.

The fall is almost never completely over and winter has usually not fully arrived.  There is still some green grass around and some trees still have at least a few leaves. The leaves on the ground, which you really need to rake, are still a thing of beauty and not yet just another soggy reminder that you have work to do.  You still have the week after the holiday before curbside yard waste pickup ends.

There is probably a football game involved and it is probably , which means it is intensely local. People you haven’t seen since . All the old-timers will recall how their team beat your team at least 40 years ago when they were in school. Even many who wouldn’t dream of watching football on television will go to a local high school game and really enjoy it.

It has no overtly religious overtones so you can wish somebody a Happy Thanksgiving and then not have to wonder if you somehow insulted them.

The calendar is not yet overflowing with things to do, so there is time to just let things happen.

The nights are cold enough that those who have fireplaces and woodstoves can toss a few logs in and enjoy the warmth of the fire while also enjoying the warmth of those with whom they are sharing the day, but the need to shovel snow is probably something to worry about later.

A few stores have moved out the Halloween merchandise and replaced it with the first of the holiday merchandise, but you can safely ignore all that for at least another week. This might even have been the weekend you finally got the perfect photograph for your holiday card.

For awhile I will have to stay away from the oldies station I listen to, as I do the weekly wash because they start holiday even before Thanksgiving. Mariah Carey singing "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is cute the first several times it is played, but after the 40th time, it begins to make you wonder what musical hell you have been consigned to. I won’t even mention chipmunks singing holiday songs.

Holiday cards have not yet started arriving in volume so you can defer that guilt.  Sure, there is always some hotdog who gets them out early each year. You know those early senders are sitting at home, smug in their belief that they are better organized than the rest of us, but we can at least pretend we don’t care. We vow to be more organized next year, while we know full well that will never happen.

Holiday gift-buying can be deferred as well until after Thanksgiving. There is more than enough time to panic about that issue. What to get Aunt Harriet will not be any easier before Thanksgiving. No matter what you get for her, she will get something better from somebody else and tell you all about it … at length.  There was that year when a bunch of people to whom I am related exchanged gifts of fruit assortments from a catalog. We could have saved a lot in postage because we all selected the same assortment.

But enough of that.

We don’t have to worry about holiday gifts yet because it is Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving gifts are wholesome things, like loaves of fresh bread and homemade cranberry sauce.

And Thanksgiving is about family and friends. We gather at tables everywhere, giving things that sometimes seem to be in short supply. Gifts like friendship, love, togetherness. An emphasis on similarities and not on differences.

So, Aunt Harriet, I promise to start working on what to get you for a holiday gift, but for now I am still living in the aura of a just recently past Thanksgiving, when the family of which I am a part gathered together.  Phone calls were exchanged with absent members. We played board games and took walks to greet the neighbors. Quite a bit of food was consumed.

But we need that food because we all need to keep up our strength for after Thanksgiving there is always a great deal of work ahead. The perfect gift for Aunt Harriet, for instance …

Oh—and if you have an Aunt Harriet, I am sure she is very nice. The name of my own Aunt Harriet has been changed to protect … well, me. For all I know she is reading Patch.


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