Despite its dubious origins, Thanksgiving is a holiday worth celebrating.
It isn’t the days off, though for teachers like me, the break comes just as the last of my early-year energy gives out. When I can’t look at one more paper or re-read another thirty-pages, my students leave the room saying, “Have a good holiday,” and I feel a surge of gratitude for their talents, their cooperation and their effort.
It isn’t that the holiday is so much time. Two days hardly measures up against the longer spans at Christmas or at spring break. This occasion just skips the strangely stressful feeling of gift-buying and manic, frenzied celebration or the escapism of spring, when doing nothing and going nowhere seems aberrant. Thanksgiving, even if you travel, centers on arriving somewhere and being relaxed and comfortable once you get there.
It isn’t the meal. As a vegetarian, I see turkeys as alien creatures I have no desire to meet, much less eat. For me, the feast is just an excuse to sit around one table and talk, a time when eating together is its own end, not sustenance before meetings or activities to attend or homework to complete. With my son at college now, we have too few family meals and even fewer are for themselves, destinations instead of way-stations. Food is only the excuse for fellowship at Thanksgiving.
It isn’t even being thankful. I like to think gratitude is a regular part of my life. I aspire to start every day with Emerson’s discovery, “I woke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.” Perhaps needing ritual to remind you of good fortune isn’t healthy. I know the good life I lead isn’t as common as I wish it were.
It’s just wonderful to look into the eyes of my family and friends and tell them—whether I use words or not—how grateful I am for them, how they make my life what it is.
So I can’t say exactly why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days, which might be the true reason. I like a day without pretension or grandeur, a day when the domestic becomes holy, a homespun holiday for homebodies like me.