Yaaay. Let’s have a celebration because former-European religious elitists arrived on a continent that was already inhabited, then forced said inhabitants to comply to their way of living.
As an added bonus these zealots brought the natives diseases, murdered them, called them names like “savage,” and forced any remaining survivors who wanted to adhere to their traditions to live on little patches of land reserved just for them - which can be taken away at any time so deemed necessary for important things like - i dunno - highways.
The first Thanksgiving celebration was supposedly to give thanks for the bounty of the harvest. Some accounts of the original feast have far more natives than settlers at the shindig, which causes one to wonder who crashed who’s party.
Regardless of the traditional account that we cartoonize and, for all intents and purposes, bastardize to make appropriate to teach elementary kids who wear turkey hats made out of handprints, the holiday has turned into an excuse for gluttony and over-indulgence.
Harsh? I don’t think so.
Not to mention, 95% of us get stressed-the-fuck out at Thanksgiving family gatherings.
Here’s the bizarre hilarity of how we do it in my family.
MY MOM: She calls me up on the phone. She’s always driving when she calls me, or she has somewhere to be, because apparently she has just as much anxiety about our relationship as I do. I can’t decide if this is a perpetuating factor or a result. #TopicForAnotherDay
In a cursory conversation she establishes the fact that I haven’t made plans to see her and that she will call me to make plans to stop by.
Thanksgiving comes and goes and we haven’t talked, and I’m not sure either one of us care enough to make the attempt at connecting.
UPDATE: She called me this morning (2 days post-Thanksgiving) and stopped by for lunch with leftover pizza. Ok. Thank you? It was good to see her and she actually stayed for more than her usual 30 seconds.
MY DAD: He likes to celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving as he has family in the North - where winter is coming. I kind of love this about my dad. He has family that he likes to spend time with, unlike she-who-must-not-be-named.
My dad also loves to spend time with me and my family. And I love him for that too. But, I didn’t make plans to see him this year.
If I’m being honest, the reason my dad only got a text, and not even a phone call on Thanksgiving is because I’m still so scared of disappointing him. Calling him - and the possibility of hearing disappointment in his voice is just too much to bear. I worry that he will be unhappy with me and it’s def a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Hi Dad. If you’re reading this, please forgive my horrible-daughterness.
I’m not sure if my dad made plans with my brother or if he spent the day with his neighbor-buddy or if he enjoyed it on his couch eating pretzels and horseradish cheese.
I care very deeply about how my dad spent his Thanksgiving, but I know he’s the kind of guy that makes the best of what he has, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t spend the day moping around about his degenerate daughter.
I did get a text (in response to mine) though. “Hi. Same to you.” I take deep breaths, telling myself that the lack of exclamation points and/or emojis is simply a generational thing, and that yes, he really does still love me.
MY (one and only) BROTHER: We just get it - we’re both busy with life in general and since we were raised by the same narcissistic, bi-polar mother - we’re both codependent people pleasers. So, of course we’ll go along with whatever our spouses are planning.
A no-fuckery approach. He texts me a very lovely photo of him and his wife with my adorable fat-cheeked nephew squished between them. They’re all wearing tan sweaters, and it’s obviously a professional photo. I jealously remember the blissful days of having one child, and planning matching apparel for planned photos for planned seasons for planned sharing. Sigh.
MY HUSBAND: He doesn’t care about celebrating the holiday just about as much as I don’t. For him it’s just a day to disconnect from life-stress and plug into family-stress. Im sure he would prefer a few drinks, amazing home-cooking and a good flick - boom.
Regardless, we make our annual trip to his (one and only) brother’s house where we watch said brother frantically prepare three different kinds of stuffing for a few hours before we spend thirty-five minutes eating and tasting barrel-aged stout together.
To my amazing brother-in-law, if you read this: Firstly, thank you. And secondly, this is NOT me complaining, but stating what is hopefully the obvious point that I’d much rather just hang out with you than watch you cook.
MY KIDS: I have four of them, in case you didn’t know. Let’s break it down.
11 YEAR OLD: My sarcastic daughter Emily is easy going, and wouldn’t give a flying fig if she laid on our couch all day, or if she had to fly to Australia to celebrate Thanksgiving. Just give her a cell phone, cozy socks, guacamole and salsa.
All four of her requirements were at my brother-in-law’s so she was happy and not giving any flying figs.
9 YEAR OLD: My empath son, also now a double middle-child, craves two things - attention and playing games. Both of those things are difficult for me to provide to him given entrepreneur life, side jobs, and four kids - so he copes in the most efficient way a 9 year old can come up with.
He incessantly asks for what he wants, which is to play games with his uncle and eat pumpkin pie.
Uncle graciously takes a few minutes after dinner to play games on the with my son. My son then proceeds to ask to take the entire pumpkin pie home.
He got one piece in one of those quasi-reusable Rubbermaid containers with a pretty gold lid, that I felt guilty taking because I know it will never find its way home.
3 YEAR OLD: My young daughter had two major-factors that held great sway over the enjoyment of our Thanksgiving outing. 1) She has recently been potty-trained and refused to poop for 2 days prior, and 2) She was sick.
The one hour drive to Uncle’s house became nearly a two hour test of fortitude due to three potty stops and intermittent wails of pain interspersed with micro-naps.
During the entire Thanksgiving feast she insisted on sitting on my lap, attempting (not succeeding) to go poop no less than three more times (oh joy), and talking to no-one.
Have you ever tried to eat with a toddler on your lap who might shit at any given moment? I struggled with every bite of food not to drop it on her head.
6 MONTH OLD: Our youngest daughter was (drumroll): ALSO SICK. She was still in pretty good spirits, but her cries the night before definitely prevented my husband and I from getting the good night’s rest required to be pleasant and have common-sense. Ya know - the basic stuff.
She, on the other hand, had a fantastic day where (almost) everyone cooed at her, admired her glittery dress and basked in the full glory of her toothless smile in return.
ME: For the first year ever, I was totally over the Thanksgiving “holiday.” I would have gladly remained in my pajamas and done a jigsaw puzzle by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree with a glass of piping hot chamomile tea. Ok, maybe a few “festive” drinks as well.
I voted let the sick babies rest and let the older kids over-indulge in screen time.
I didn’t need to go anywhere, and I had no desire to ask anyone to cater to my vegan lifestyle. I certainly didn’t want to host a dinner. This was my year to call bullshit on the whole debacle.
I didn’t call bullshit on anything. I didn’t insist on staying home or on going out. I just went along… I went along with the agonizing car ride. I went along with the nonsensical arguments my husband and I conjured up as we let stress win. I went along with feeling like a statistic - another traveling Thanksgiving celebrator.
I went along with being the token vegan, bearing witness to the unnecessary slaughter of many-a GMO-fattened turkey on that honorable day. I went along with feeling tired, judged, over-extended, stressed, and un-special.
NOW I’m calling bullshit.
MY THANKSGIVING EXPERIENCE TAKEAWAYS
I have two takeaways from this experience:
I used to love the “holiday” and I honor all of those out there who love it too, but can we just have a minute of silence for indigenous tribes that were smote from their lands?
STOP THE FUCKING MADNESS.
If I asked you if you believed suicide risks increase during the holidays, I think most of you would make the same assumption that I did and say “YES, damn right they do.”
We couldn’t be more wrong. Suicide attempts actually decrease during this time. If you’re like me reading this, then there’s a collective head scratching “huh?”
See, I have a theory, which I know you’re just dying to hear about, no pun intended. Ugh - bad joke.
My theory is that we are all holding our breath, biding our time and getting through the holidays.
We hold onto our childlike hope for those perfect meals of sharing and celebration that we saw in our textbooks, albeit wearing very different headwear.
We tie a knot of hope for a future treaty where we can live in peace and coexist in a utopian society. We hang on for dear life and skid through the holidays trying to pull ourselves to the safety of togetherness.
Although we don’t wear pilgrim hats and feather headdresses, we pass the damned corn around like it’s our lifeline to familial bliss when nothing could be further from the truth - just like the so-called “First Thanksgiving.”
We smile, we eat the food, and everything is honky-dory for one whole day. No pressure to pack an entire year of extended family relationships into .3% of the annual allotment we each get.
As our circa 1600AD counterparts feasted together with vulnerability and wariness, they celebrated the joy of the harvest. Our families now come together with equal amounts of emotional expectations and defenses up. It takes a fair amount of grit, determination, and grace to sit in that stress, only to go back to normal life the next day which consists of scalpings, hangings and general dis-ease.
I don’t know about you, but I intend on making my next Thanksgiving very different.
A NEW THANKSGIVING RECIPE TO TRY
From my (vegan) kitchen to yours:
RECIPE FOR: Thanksgiving Next Year
PREP TIME: However long it takes to decide (seconds)
COOK TIME: Approx. 1 year - keep it warm and ready for grazing until the full meal is served
ears for listening
Look your loved ones in the eyes. Dare to hold eye contact for more than a few seconds. We can all use a little extra acknowledgement. There’s a reason being seen is empowering. Gotta give it if you want to get it.
Listen to each other - REALLY listen. Shut your pie hole and open your ear holes. This falls securely in the “acknowledgment” category as well. If you yourself enjoy being heard extend that respect to the souls around you.
Slow down. The truest joy that comes from sitting around the table together is literally sitting around the table together. It’s not the food, the music, the clean house, or the perfect homemade stuffing. Take time to just be together. Repeat steps 1 & 2.
Give. Find something you can give that will bless somebody. Be it money, food, stuff, or wisdom. Share massively. It feels amazing and builds goodwill. Wins all around.
Admire what you have. Embrace your moment and the gifts you’ve been trusted with by the universe/God. The money you have, the things you have, the resources you consume, even the disappointments and trials you face are gifts which are your responsibility to grow through. Getting to the point of thankfulness for the shit in your life is a flashing neon sign pointing to an enlightened human being.
Eat less dead things and more greens. Save your body, the planet, and the turkeys.
Do you look forward to this holiday? Leave a comment with your thoughts around Thanksgiving! I do love seeing my family to visit and have fun, but the hullabaloo around the turkey tradition is just ridiculous.
…Now, don’t even get me started about Christmas!