Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. It reflects my values perfectly; the whole point of it is to overeat, indulge in a few beverages of intrigue, watch football and nap on the couch. There are no gifts (an absolutely enormous point in Thanksgiving's favor), and there's no hype, no annoying music and no religious connection. (Hey, I appreciate Easter and Christmas, in that order, as a Christian, but I do like being able to say "Happy Thanksgiving" to anybody and everybody.)
Thanksgiving is the great American holiday, the peak of our culture, our greatest achievement in leisure, a field in which our achievements are among the most stunning and numerous in the history of humankind. What makes Thanksgiving the pinnacle of Americana is the fact that we managed to work a four-day weekend into the bowels of November, when the weather is lousy in much of the country...and we also managed to actually have fun with it, cramming it full of two of America's greatest cultural touchstones, overeating and ultra-violent sports.
Oh, sure, there's the presence of family, sometimes a joy and sometimes a burden, but sleep-inducing food and non-stop football from 1pm (on the East Coast, anyway) until fairly late in the evening can plaster over even the biggest cracks in the familial foundation--for a day, anyway. Christmas? It's nice and all, but it's really just an unavoidable marketing onslaught that leaves few traces for most of the significance of the holiday--that significance being the birth of Christ, of course. (And, to be fair, we Christians seem to have co-opted the December celebration of the solstice--although why anybody would want to celebrate the darkest days of the year is beyond me--from some sort of pagans or druids or something.) Besides, Easter is the money holiday for Christians. The whole basis of the faith revolves around the death and resurrection of Christ. But I digress...
I would have some time for arguments that our greatest holiday achievement as Americans is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. It's also the day that kicked off about a half-decade of war (which we totally won, of course)--but whatever. Who remembers the day the Revolution actually ended, anyway? (Sept. 3, 1783--and, yes, I Googled it.) Sept. 3 isn't in the middle of summer, and besides, we have Labor Day in September and Memorial Day in May to frame summer--that seasonal frame being another spectacular American idea. The point here is that it's very worthwhile to celebrate American independence, but we're smart about it. We celebrate the day the Revolution began (more or less) rather than the day it ended, likely because the day our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence just happens to fall right in the middle of the most glorious time of year. Boo-yeah. U-S-A!
But Thanksgiving is still the greatest of all the (mostly) American-created holidays because it's in November. Late May, mid-July, early September--they're all likely to be lovely times of year, day(s) off or not. But November is mostly lousy everywhere in the US except in those places where it's sunny all the time, anyway. And yet we came up with an excuse (Pilgrims, Indians, whatever...how did that all end, anyway?) to make late November absolutely fantastic. Congratulations on another victory, America. Seriously, Thanksgiving rocks.
Plus, Thanksgiving has led to many of the greatest moments in American TV history, several of which involve the Dallas Cowboys (of course). There was Clint Longley in 1974, Jason Garrett in 1994, 51-7 over Seattle in 1980, Leon Lett in 1993...wait, scratch that last one. But beyond the Cowboys (and, uh, the Lions, I suppose...), there's one Thanksgiving TV moment that stands above all others, one shining beacon of artistic Turkey Day achievement never likely to be surpassed. I'm referring, of course, to (and, yes, the bold is justified here) the Thanksgiving episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Bask in it; breathe it in deeply...let it wash over you. This, like Thanksgiving, is total American genius.
By the way, lest I totally ignore the purpose of the holiday, I'm thankful for any of you who bother to read this blog and actually got to the end of this entry (and I'm also thankful for a lot of other stuff). Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!