Even by the most ambitious standards, Thanksgiving overdoes it. I’m not referring to the moral dubiousness of gratitude followed by a day—historically, the day—of commerce and consumption. Nor do I mean the animal welfare standpoint, or the re-writing of history to gloss over mistreatment of Native Americans.
I mean a different horror.
Listening to ambulances scream through my neighborhood on Thursday, I remembered describing Thanksgiving to an ESL (English as a second language) student from Brazil years ago.
As I set the scene with insane travel, rare combinations of relatives, a dictatorial menu, and probable bad weather, I realized: Thanksgiving’s fairly diabolical, as holidays go.
It’s like a bunch of maniacs sat in a room and wondered, How to best torture people at the start of winter? Here’s what their brainstorming session yielded:
- Take a bird we rarely eat and sell it whole. So it’ll be hard to cook without suffering burns or botulism.
- People must invite the whole gang. Or feel shame and guilt if they don't. Even the ones they never see. In fact, let’s stress this to the point of creating the busiest travel day of the year just before. They’ll have indigestion before they lift a fork.
- While we’re at it, let’s schedule for the end of November, ok? That way, if it was an election year, everyone’s still cooling off from disappointment or just ramping up their gloating. Conversational landmines abound!
- And finally, top it off with a dollop of unattainable Norman Rockwell-ian coziness.
Seen this way, @@it’s a wonder anyone celebrates Thanksgiving more than once.@@ Every last one of us is signing up for a struggle.
So as you answer, “How was your Thanksgiving?” about 23 times today, don’t be too critical of your experience. No matter how the holiday went, you win:
If it sucked, take comfort. The cards were stacked against you.
If it rocked, congrats. You beat the odds.
As we enter the holiday season, cut yourself some—or a lot of—slack. And keep things as simple as possible. Because society’s expectations are unrealistic and absurd. In fact, if society says we need more, the opposite is probably the truth.