This Thursday is Thanksgiving, and it is my favorite holiday. And not just because it turns into a four-day weekend — although that helps.
Thanksgiving is a true American holiday, a moment when the country comes together. There are few controversial Thanksgivings. No questions about what day it should fall on, or if we are observing it the “right way”. It’s just a time for family, food and football.
And yes, there are valid points concerning the treatment of Native Americans both now and centuries before. They have certainly not been treated in the spirit of the first Thanksgiving.
But in general, Thanksgiving today is America’s national day off, the day we tend to stop arguing and concentrate on what brings us together. It is not a solemn time, or really even a reflective one. It’s just a chance to be with family and friends.
With all due respect to religion, Thanksgiving doesn’t involve going to church or formal rituals and ceremonies. It’s about celebrating and giving thanks for little more than each other, at least for one day.
To be sure, Thanksgiving does indeed have traditions. High school football games on Thanksgiving are a long-standing one. Getting up and going to watch local kids play their arch-rival for some mythical championship is something everyone should experience.
In my house, woe to the poor soul who scoops the Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce out of the can rather than removing it completely from one end and slicing it into wafers. My daughter-in-law MJ discovered that on her first Thanksgiving with us, and the poor thing has never completely recovered from the wrath rained down upon her.
My late mother had many duties during family Thanksgiving celebrations. Chief among them was making the gravy. Everyone loved it.
Then one year she burned the gravy. It tasted terrible. She was upset, and we took full advantage. For the rest of her life, we joked at Thanksgiving about my mother burning the gravy.
“Grandma, we think your gravy is on fire!” my sons would tease her. “Hey Mom, I think the smoke detector is going off. Are you making the gravy?” I would ask in front of everyone. We did it for every single Thanksgiving, and now that she is gone — we still joke about it and how she pretended to be irritated, but actually loved it.
This Thanksgiving my sister-in-law Valerie will probably make her excellent Swedish bread, my sister-in-law Darleen might make her world famous deviled eggs, and my wife will make her amazing apple twists for dessert.
Often we have had special guests on Thanksgiving. People with no place else to go, members of special group homes my late sister befriended when she worked there, and friends of our kids who were away from home for school or other reasons.
These are the things that make this holiday special. They are the memories that will live beyond me and into future family Thanksgiving gatherings. Decades from now I may be gone, but the smell of my mom’s burnt gravy will no doubt still be discussed at Turkey Day dinners.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy your own traditions.