I have so much to be thankful for a sweet and loving family, my fiance and future in-laws included, and dear friends. I am thankful I’m in a great graduate program and almost done with coursework, at least from the perspective of Arkansas and Texas it looks like the economy is mostly recovering just in time for me to think about the job market, and that I live in a beautiful country that provides me, my family, and friends with more security, liberty, stability, comfort, and convince than many people around the world will ever know.
But all that said, I can’t help but feel like these grateful utterances once on “paper” (ie facebook post) look a little more like bragging especially if you consider that they are being broadcast throughout our social networks and into the global space of the Internet. Thanksgiving has always felt like a very American holiday to me, but pondering its origins and meaning leaves me somewhat unsatisfied with what we are celebrating. Gratitude aside, are we celebrating Gluttony and Manifest Destiny? And if Thanksgiving is the day of Gratitude, Gluttony, and Manifest Destiny … are we ok with that? After all they play a big role in America’s past and present.
This blog entry is an expansion of a facebook post I made earlier today. I am going for time’s sake, I’m going to split it up into 3 posts.
As far as holidays (holy days) go Thanksgiving seems to be a new world take on the traditional European harvest festival. Considering how few of modern North Americans are still involved or connected to agriculture it seems a little strange the holiday is still such a big deal, however, in the United States Thanksgivings continued relevance seems to be tied to its more recent association with commercialism. In the days following Halloween, we decorate with fall leaves and turkeys dressed a pilgrims. We coordinate with family and friends to ensure we each have our own massive feast fit for a medieval king, except they didn’t have turkey or mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie because they are new world foods. I watched my mother fret over orchestrating this massive feast for my extended family for years. Family members drive or fly very long distances to be together on Thanksgiving day. By the time it is actually time to eat, at least half the people at the table are exhausted, annoyed or at their wits end.
For many, the meal itself is only second place to the Macy’s Day parade and the afternoon packed with football games. Overstuffed with mom’s best stuffing, everyone half-passes out in front of the TV. While all of the family’s big shoppers get busy circling the Black Friday Ads and go to bed early so they can wake up at mid-night.
The big question I want to ask is what exactly are we celebrating here and what does it say about our culture. How is a holiday designed to express gratitude also a celebration of Gluttony and Consumerism? And in what ways is this holiday ritual vital to the American economy.