Thanksgiving is a time of thanking, giving, laughing, shopping, yelling, crying, and mass turkey executions. It remains the only holiday that was ever moved to increase the amount of shopping days before Christmas by FDR in 1939, but unfortunately the extra week was not enough to overcome the Great Depression.
Thanksgiving will always be the hand- me-down little brother of Christmas; 24 hours of goodwill, one remarkable Charlie Brown Special, a feel good Detroit Lions loss, and headfirst into the evil consumer void of Black Friday to kick off the real giving season. Unfortunately wrapped presents will always trump a turkey leg and knock Thanksgiving off the top of the award podium into a three way battle with Easter and Halloween for the silver. Ham vs Turkey, Witches vs Pilgrims, and Costumes vs Uncle Chuck’s Easter Dinner Nightshirt. There are no clear cut winners in the holiday Thunderdome.
But all is not lost because Thanksgiving has tradition. Not important Christmas tradition like an all-day Twilight Zone marathon or leaving Santa a beer and salami sandwich because he prefers it to milk and cookies, but 400 years of actual human beings, who don’t like each other, sitting down to dinner and speaking to each other about what they were thankful over the past year. If the Indians and pilgrims could put aside their killing for the day, the Bargiels could do the same.
In my youth, my brother Jon, sister Nina, and I would go around the Thanksgiving table and name one thing we were thankful for that year. Over the years, it became a bit boring and predictable, like a Tebow interview, and we decided to think outside the box once we hit our 20’s.
Dad: Jer, what are you thankful for?
Me: I’m thankful we didn’t spend our summers on Amity Island and I’m thankful I’m not much of a beach-goer.
Dad: OK… Jon?
Me: I’m thankful I wasn’t on the Lynyard Skynyrd plane when it went down in ’77.
Dad: If you are not going to take this seriously, we are not going to do it! This is a special day! Nina!
Nina: I’m thankful for having such a wonderful family…
Dad: Was that so hard?
Nina: and for not being Rick James’ sex slave. I’m Rick James Bitch! I just couldn’t take that for multiple days.
Dad: You have ruined Thanksgiving!
Dad leaves but not before adding food to his plate and making sure the Lions game is on.
Mom: I couldn’t take that either dear. I’m thankful for having everyone home for Thanksgiving and not recounting the same boring stories. I’m Rick James Bitch! I like that!
Sure we spent a great deal of time before dinner watching an E True Hollywood Story marathon, but the point is that we were still thankful while tweaking the old tradition for the new tradition. I don’t get together for holidays as much as I’d like with my brother and sister, but when we do Jaws, Skynyrd, and Rick James will surely come up and whatever current drama is unfolding will be replaced by smiles, laughter, and my father carrying a well-stocked food plate to watch football.
Since that time, I have gone on to ruin other holidays and one year I even failed Easter (I thought they were grading on a curve, but apparently Jesus is set in his ways.) I’m very thankful for the gifts of my friends, family, and our way of life. My wife and I still go around the table with our children and name one particular thing that we are thankful for over the year. The responses are fairly predictable, but I look forward to when they start their own tradition. If bedtime prayers from the 4 year old are any indication, it is coming soon.
Me: It’s time for prayers. What would you like to thank God for?
Boy: I thank God for mommy, daddy, Julia, my penis,
Me: Your what?!
Boy: My penis.
Boy: Because it’s the greatest toy I’ve ever had.
Me: And why did you put it after your mother, me, and your sister?
Boy: Because I love you more than any toy.
It’s the little things that bring us the greatest joy. I smiled, I laughed, and in my mind’s eye I saw my father leaving the room with a full plate in search of football. Enjoy your traditions and have a Very Happy Thanksgiving!