1) the food. Okay, this one was in order.
2) it’s a chance to collect one’s family in one place and spend the day (or weekend) talking and catching up.
3) #2 could be done at Christmas, but the joyous thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s free of the stress of Christmas. You don’t have to participate in Black Friday if you don’t want to, but everyone feels compelled to participate in the Christmas tradition of gift-giving. Christmas has become, in Garrett’s words, Capitalistmas. No matter how much individual people may emphasize family or joy or God in Christmas, the general theme of Christmas is “give/get presents.” What is the first question anyone asks you after “How was your holiday?” “What’d you get?” Right?
Before you bark about the sordid history of Thanksgiving and all the Indians that the English slaughtered to make it that far, consider this. All folk (not just us Americans, though we’re really good at it) alter or forget their history, especially related to holidays. With each passing year, another coat of sugar gets slathered onto the memory until the event itself is a lump of shapeless goo. To make an overly complicated example to prove my point, look up St. Valentine on Wikipedia. Nobody knows who he was, or how many St. Valentines there were (yes, there were more than one). Nobody knows why or how they were martyred, and not even the Romans were sure where the first St. Valentine was buried. Then look at the stuff between then and now. Nobody can agree on how we got from a gaggle of Roman saints to a holiday about chocolates, red hearts and obligatory sex. To offer another example, think about Christmas. We all know how it started out. No, not the part about Jesus, the part further back than that. The pagan part. Between then and now dozens of date changes, rewrites, additions (hello Santa Claus) and alterations have changed Christmas so profoundly that when I tell you that for many years Protestants vehemently and violently opposed the celebration of Christmas, you will think it at the least a bit bizarre and run off to Wikipedia to see if I’m telling you the truth.
I am by no means advocating for abolishment of Christmas or Valentine’s Day or even a return to their roots; I’m merely making the point that it’s implausible and downright silly to think too hard about any holiday based on a historical event or a dead person. If you try to include the entire span of a holiday’s history in your observation of it, you will inevitably do or say things that completely contradict one another. That’s why some people celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, some celebrate it as a day to get and give a whole bunch of stuff, some celebrate it not as a Christian holiday but as the winter solstice, or yet again as a pagan feast and party, but never as all those things at the same time.
But I digest. I was talking about Thanksgiving in New Jersey. I met Garrett’s very Jewish grandmother about whom I will only say this: the stereotypes are true. I felt like speaking in a Southern drawl just to save my own ears from the increasingly twitch-inducing dialects Garrett’s family issued forth. Don’t get me wrong; they’re wonderful people. They just need to learn how to
Since New Brunswick was only an hour away, we decided to zip up to Rutgers on Saturday to spend a while with the Brothers of Pi Chapter of MBPsi. We played football (which devolved into a silly string battle– only at Pi), had an official meeting, played the Jewish version of Apples to Apples (an automatic win if you can't pronounce the word you play), and were just about to take part in the most lavish and plentiful Thanksgiving bounty I have ever seen (there were about 30 people packed into a 4-person apartment), but Garrett needed to get home to get up early for work the next morning, and Oswego is a good 5 hours from north Jersey.
That was definitely the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ve had to date. I love my family with all my heart, but there’s not much can compete with being captive audience to a 75-year-old Jew wife for eight hours, getting nearly run off the road three times on residential streets, playing Jewish Apples to Apples with two Jews until 5a.m., and running around an entire apartment complex with two cans of silly string participating in a mass regression to early childhood.
This is why I’ve decided that holidays are worth it again.