I suppose I should start with an apology. The truth is, I’ve gotten a bit swept up in the premature bombardment of jingle bells and red coffee cups. I’ve been listening to my Christmas Pandora station for about three weeks now and the fruits of my procrastination last night were Holiday coloring pages I printed off the Internet. This morning, I spent 20 minutes talking to my dorm neighbors about buying matching lighted wreaths for our windows.
I apologize because this direct switch into Christmas mode as soon as the cat ears and Jack-O-Lanterns are stashed away is unfair to you, and quite frankly, to all of us who miss out on your holiday in its grand entirety because of it.
In light of this, I wanted to write a letter to remind you that, despite the fact that Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé are currently singing their perfect rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” through my headphones, I still recognize your greatness and everything about your day.
I’ll start with your origins. Far removed from the childhood days when I made pilgrim bonnets and Native American headdresses out of staples and construction paper, I recently did some mature research on the story of your beginnings.
The story of Thanksgiving is a historical example of true solidarity we ought to refresh ourselves with every year. It’s the story of people who risked their lives to sail trans-Atlantic toward the promise of religious and civil freedom, only to be hit with the reality of unpreparedness in a land they didn’t know.
When the first winter cut the crew down to half its original size and their hope down to almost nothing, members of a local Native American tribe greeted the culture-shocked English men and women. Disregarding any threat it might pose on their own self-interest, they welcomed the newcomers. They showed them the ways of the land.
Keep in mind that amongst all of this was the remarkable figure of Squanto, who had just years before been captured and enslaved by an English sea captain. Now back in America, he was the frontman in aiding the Pilgrims, using his new fluency in English to show them how to hunt and farm—an amazing example of forgiveness and selflessness.
Everything that led up to the famous three-day feast packs an important message we should remind ourselves of before we mindlessly pass the mashed potatoes and get lost in the shuffle of St. Nick. I think we could all benefit from (at the very least) an annual reflection on this unconventional example of colonist/native friendship too often overlooked in the history books.
Another aspect of your day that cannot go unappreciated is the undivided attention it enables us to give to our family. Especially now that many of the members of the table are living in dorm rooms hours away or have maybe even moved into a place of their own, the time spent in one another’s presence is truly sacred. Thanksgiving provides us with the perfect opportunity to disconnect from our schoolwork, our office work, our social network, and simply enjoy a delicious meal in quality conversation with the people we love.
Amongst the devouring of grandma’s impeccably cooked turkey, or my other grandma’s unfailingly delectable pumpkin pie, or even my mom’s brilliantly selected store-bought dinner rolls (she has a true gift with this, I swear), there’s an air of warmth and nostalgia in the room that words cannot quite do justice.
A reminder of our loving roots grounds us and gives us perspective in our ever-busy, ever-stressful lives, and makes us truly appreciate those who have been with us from the very beginning.
This brings me to my next point about what makes you, Thanksgiving, deserving of full-hearted appreciation: your message of gratitude. We don’t have to look forward more than one day after the holiday to recognize the ever-too-present mindset of constantly desiring more—last year I was even guilty of capitalizing on some Black “Friday” deals within hours of the turkey and stuffing. There will always be more to buy, so how can we ever be satisfied with the more-more-more mentality?
Contrarily, adopting the mindset of thanksgiving for all that we have already been blessed with is the key to living a fulfilled, happy life. Gratitude is acknowledging the uniquely wonderful talents and opportunities you have, giving you the ability to genuinely praise those of your neighbor rather than envy them. It’s appreciating the amazing friends and family you have in your life instead of dwelling on the boyfriend you don’t have in your life that Grandma keeps asking about.
There are even health benefits; according to Forbes, gratitude improves physical and psychological health, helps you fall asleep (so count your blessings, not sheep!) and improves self-esteem. Thanksgiving Day, when given the proper attention, reminds us to keep this virtue at the center of our daily lives.
And you know what gratitude goes absolutely hand-in-hand with? Generosity. Which brings me to my final point: True Christmas spirit does not negate true Thanksgiving spirit. That is, giving of time, energy and resources for the good of others can only come from someone who cherishes the time, energy and resources they have been given. Both holidays become more wholesome and less commercialized when we emphasize these aspects. This means that overlooking you, Thanksgiving, would only hold us early hall-deckers back from realizing our full Christmas spirit potential.
So, while I’m not sorry for my hasty embodiment of Buddy-the-Elf-esque Christmas cheer, I’m sorry for all the times I overlooked the invaluable aspects of your golden day of gratitude and gluttony because of it.
Thank you, Thanksgiving, for reminding me the importance of solidarity, family and, well, saying thank you.