I seriously I love Thanksgiving. In fact, it might be my favorite holiday. It's fun and exciting, but it's flexible enough to be whatever you want it to be--a major family dinner, or some take-out from a restaurant. In fact, it seems to me to be the quintessential American holiday. It's something unique, something we invented. At the same time, it's flexibility allows people to celebrate it in all kinds of ways. We went to a Thanksgiving feast at our congregation in New York, for example, featuring ox tail, plantains, and rice and beans.
It's got religious underpinnings, so it's spiritual but it's not tied to any specific faith. I also love it that you can say, "Happy Thanksgiving" to nearly anyone and know that they won't be offended. (I know a few people will be, but they are clearly so grumpy and professionally unhappy that I don't care too much if they are offended).
So, it's the ultimate democratic (small-d) holiday. It pulls us together and celebrates what we have in common--which is a whole lot of blessings.
Personally, I love how mellow it is. It's got all the good stuff about Christmas--family and food and good times, without the pressure. (I do wish there was a canon of really cool music. That's the one thing it lacks). I also love that it falls between Halloween and Christmas, which means it hasn't been commercialized yet. The retailers just jump from Halloween to Christmas. Other people complain that Walgreens puts Christmas decorations up November 1st, but I think it's great. It means that my precious, mellow Thanksgiving is untouched.
The older I get, the more and more I cherish the memories of Thanksgivings past--memories of grandparents and cousins, of aunts and uncles. Growing up, my Thanksgivings were about as close to Norman Rockwell as you can get. The times I got to spend with these people--people who are either no longer alive, or people by whom I no longer live--become more and more precious to me. My memories become more and more golden as the law of Supply and Demand make that which is rare all the more precious.
I can't wait to spend time with my own growing family--the children who have begun to leave the nest already. We'll be down one child this year--which would be unbearably painful were it not for the fact that he'll be with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents--making his own memories.
We'll eat and then I'll doze while everyone else watches football. We'll watch Miracle on 34th Street that night (original version, thank you very much). We'll go get our tree the next day and decorate it, then eat sugar cookies and drink egg nog.
But before all that, in the quiet days between now and the beginning of Christmas, I'll think long and hard. I'll thank God for a generous bounty of material goods that is almost unheard of, by historical human standards. I'll thank him for a warm home that is warmed (and cooled) with the flick of a switch and not with wood that I've had to cut myself.
I'll thank him for food to eat that has come to me without having to reap or plow or slaughter, pluck, or skin.
I'll thank him for the priceless gift of an education--which is now, in turn, providing a fantastic education for my children. I'll remember how fortunate I am to have a job--especially one that challenges and stretches me, that brings me into contacts with students that light up my life.
I'll thank him for a loving wife who walks, hand in hand, along with me. Patient in my weaknesses and committed to our vows and our family. I'll thank him for healthy, happy children who are flourishing and growing and learning.
I'll thank him for a faith that grounds me--that gives the positive inside of me a direction and channel, while providing a structure for me to address and try to weed out the negative--a faith that provides an anchor and shelter when the storm and winds blow.
I'll thank him for his love--manifest daily in a splendid tapestry of ways--most notably the continuing gift of his son and the healing that has brought into my life in so many ways.
I have so very much to be grateful for this year. Most of us do--notwithstanding the difficulties we face.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a meaningful holiday filled to the brim with whatever makes you happiest!
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