Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Thanksgiving is here! It’s time to eat as much as possible and then do some Black Friday shopping for bigger pants. But this holiday isn’t just about giving your cholesterol a boost; it’s also about giving thanks. So, allow me to give thanks:

  • I am thankful that Jesus invented Thanksgiving.
    • I just wonder where he plugged in the electric carving knife.
      • Never mind. I forgot. Jesus doesn’t need an outlet.

Last Supper

  • I am thankful that the Pilgrims brought turkeys to America on the Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, and Titanic.
  • I am thankful that Europeans and Native Americans got along so well that not even a trace of of tension or racism exists to this day.

Redskins logo

  • I am thankful for cornucopias: the classiest way to spill produce onto a table.

Cornucopia

  • I am thankful for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, because no one gets tired of seeing gigantic, inflatable versions of culturally irrelevant cartoon characters.
    • I am also thankful for C-rate musicians who lip-sync on floats.

Woody Woodpecker

  • I am thankful that a turkey’s body cavity was specifically designed for stuffing.
    • I am thankful for the wishbone, which can grant anyone’s wish except the turkey’s.
  • I am thankful for ham, which like turkey, ends up on our plates only out of obligation.
  • I am thankful for Pillsbury crescent rolls, which are half doughy deliciousness, half pipe bomb.

pillsbury rolls

  • I am thankful for potatoes au gratin, ’cause au damn they’re good.
  • I am thankful for casseroles, all of which are absolutely “secret family recipes” and not at all taken from a Campbell’s soup label.
  • I am thankful that Ocean Spray cranberry sauce doesn’t have the shape and consistency of dog food.
Ocean Spray, Purina? Purina, Ocean Spray?

Ocean Spray, Purina? Purina, Ocean Spray?

  • I am thankful for the family and friends who think “Can you please pass the mashed potatoes?” means “Can you please pass along your unsolicited views on politics and religion?”
    • “Also pass the gravy boat of self-righteous anger and ignorance. Thanks!”
  • I am thankful for alternative recipes to classic dishes, because every gathering needs one item we can all agree not to eat.
"Everyone grab a spoon! I brought mashed beets! It's so much better than the normal people food that you all would rather eat!"

“Everyone grab a spoon! I brought mashed beets! It’s so much better than the normal food you all were expecting to eat and enjoy.”

  • I’m thankful for the NFL tradition of having the Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving. There’s nothing better than eating dinner while watching a perennial Super Bowl contender.

  • I am thankful for jello molds, so that even the laziest relatives can contribute.
  • I am thankful that pecan pie is both tasty and low-cal.
  • I am thankful for pumpkin pie, whose pushy, narcissistic ways have earned it a starring role in two major holidays.
    • On a related note, I’m thankful for whipped cream.
  • I am thankful to tryptophan, the official amino acid of Thanksgiving, for making it biologically acceptable to say, “It sure is getting late,” shortly after dessert.
  • I am thankful for Tupperware, which keeps Thankgiving going all weekend long, like a drunk, lonely buddy who guilt trips you into having “just…one…more.”
Tupperware: In use for only days, yet dirty in the sink for months.

Tupperware: In use for days, dirty in the sink for months.

  • I am thankful for giving thanks, because thanks giving makes Thanksgiving the prime time for thanks. So, thanks for that. Happy Thanksgiving!

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

It’s kind of awful, but people need to be reminded to enjoy the holidays, and I am here to do just that.

I’ve always had rather mixed feelings about Thanksgiving celebrations. The thing that most people (especially women) realize early on is that Thanksgiving is a lot of work. I used to wonder where the reward was. Eventually, I determined that the true gift on any holiday is the time spent together, and all holidays only happen once. In a few short days, Thanksgiving 2013 will have come and gone, and I intend to try to relax and enjoyeat_drink_enjoy_1 all that.

A Thanksgiving meal requires at minimum three hours of preparation (this doesn’t include any deep cleaning or holiday decoration). The clean-up also requires several hours, sometimes overflowing into the next morning and beyond. This is all fine. Family meals are important rituals, going back millennia. It is not the preparation time that irks me; rather, it is the speed with which some guests gobble a meal and pack-up to head home, or often to the next event.

I sympathize. I understand that many people are expected to visit two or more households on Thanksgiving. I used to do the same thing when I lived in Ohio. We all know in the end, we are fortunate to have so many loved ones inviting us to visit and dine and drink. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded: enjoy your holiday! Perhaps arrive a bit earlier and stay a bit later if only to allow yourself time to have a bit more time to savor.

No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving (or even if you don’t), try hard to be present in each moment. Enjoy the simple act of laying the table. Marvel at the mismatched china and silverware that hold the secret stories of the origins of families and friends. Waiting for guests is something we do on every important event. If one family happens to be late, relish the moments of waiting; there is nothing to be done, just sit down and anticipate their arrival. Someday, they won’t be able to come to dinner at all.

Nice-FranceSome of my favorite Thanksgiving meals have been less traditional. In 1999, I celebrated Thanksgiving in Nice, France, with my cherished friend, Leah. She was living there, teaching English. We went out shopping to get items for the meal, but because we were in France, where turkeys aren’t in abundance and Thanksgiving doesn’t exist, the closest we could get to a turkey was a chicken. We shared that Thanksgiving with her French neighbor and her Moroccan boyfriend. After the meal, we went to the Irish Pub Leah and her friends frequented. Here, I drunkenly explained our mysterious Thanksgiving traditions to the owner.

In my terrible French, I said, “Nous mangeons trop. Nous regardons la tele. Nous regarder le football Américain.”

We enjoyed ourselves immensely. We didn’t stress because we weren’t required to get it right; no one had any expectations. We were free to enjoy where we were and the people with whom we shared the day.

Many times, altering holidays helps alleviate feeling overwhelmed. Our day-to-day calendars might have to remain unchanged, but celebrating doesn’t have to be limited to UFThanksjust one day. Since many of us will be scattering by holiday travel, I hosted a wonderful, imperfect Thanksgiving with my Urban Family this past Sunday at my place. My heavens, they are a gorgeous group. More importantly, they are all smart and funny (or laughable) and unique and quirky and loving, which is the way I prefer my family members to be, and spending time with them is always reason to celebrate (it doesn’t hurt that Kris had the foresight to bring a “signature cocktail”).

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the meal isn’t perfect. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even want a perfect meal. Laughter is the lasting result of dealing with the beautiful imperfections of life. One of my absolutely favorite memories is when my exacting mother over-cooked the roles. My hysterical brother-in-law Dana determined “these must be the wheat rolls.” Years later, we still reference the “wheat rolls,” so the humor and the moment live on.

When you find yourself rushing or running around or raising your voice to those loved ones for whom you are trying to make the holidays so perfectly special, I invite you to pause, and follow Kurt Vonnegut’s suggestion; “I urge you to notice when you are happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

It certainly is.

 

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Two years ago, at about this time of year, I asked a group of my Freshmen students what traditions they looked forward to most during the holidays.  Not surprisingly, I got a good number of responses centered on the food and feast of Thanksgiving.  Some were most excited to be home with their families.  Still others were just looking forward to relaxing during their couple days off of work and school.  I expected about as much.

But, then, a couple young ladies shocked me. They stated with great excitement that they could not wait to go shopping on ‘Black Friday’.  I think I frowned, mentioning that this was not really a holiday ‘tradition’, in the purest sense of the word.  Of course, I was wrong to doubt the traditional basis of their shopping excursions. As many additional students pointed out, at 18 years old, they had been participating in ‘Black Friday’ madness for as long as they could remember. All traditions are invented at some point in time,  and for these folks, ‘Black Friday’ was timeless.

I will admit, this was upsetting to me because, I, like many others, despise ‘Black Friday’.  Now, I don’t hate the idea of shopping for presents on the day after Thanksgiving.  I actually enjoy Christmas shopping for, and with, my family.  But, I think what happens on Black Friday is a different exercise altogether, corrupting the meaning of gift buying.

Holiday shopping should be about spending time with family and friends, and thinking about how to make them happy. For example, in the couple weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my wife and I use a few Fridays to meander our local shopping community, searching for gifts for my daughters and friends.  We take our time to think and discuss long and hard about what gifts would make those we care about most happy. There is not much in this world better than finding that perfect present that will make your youngest daughter yell for joy on Christmas morning (to be honest, it is pretty easy to make her yell for joy); perhaps the only thing that can beat that is discovering a stuffed hamster that your oldest daughter will proudly exhibit for her 1st grade, wholly self-created, hamster club. The purpose of such shopping is to enjoy the shared thoughts of our loved ones’ future happiness.  We are consuming to give, not consuming to take.

black_friday_600

Black Friday has another purpose altogether, and it is a symptom of a larger cultural disease in American life today. Friday’s storm of shopping is not really about finding a gift that will make others happy (of course, some shoppers have this intention). For the majority of consumers, Friday’s shopping madness is more about competition. Storming the ramparts of our local big box store  in order to win the holiday.  Who will be the first one in line at 2AM?  Who will be the first into the store?  Who will grab the best deal?  Who will fight hardest for the latest toy/electronic gadget that their child/husband/wife can’t live without?  The winner walks away with the cheapest merchandise, at whatever the human cost.  In order to win, contemplation towards what would be a wonderous gift is unlikely; action is the most important response. It seems ‘Black Friday’ enjoyment comes not from the thoughts of Christmas morning joy, but from an individual, selfish desire to defeat other consumers. Not surprisingly, the competition can get nasty.  We see it each year when mobs of consumers break down doors, stampede workers, and sometimes attack others that stand in the way of store-crowd-black-friday-blur-615cs112212their material victory.

This is why it should come as no surprise that Black Friday is now being moved back 24 hours, into what retailers and media have dubbed ‘Brown Thursday’ (Thanksgiving, of course).  Since consumers will line up at 4AM, 2AM, or 1AM to win the shopping world series, it only so obvious that they will take any advantage they can get. If that advantage is leaving our homes and families on Thanksgiving, then so be it. We want to win, whatever the cost to our families, or to the families of those who must serve us at our retail palaces.

There is no shortage of tragic irony that our individualistic desires of consumption and victory are encroaching onto one our diminishing  sacred days of community.  If ‘Black Friday’ is all about desire and struggle, then the ORIGINAL Brown Thursday holiday was created to symbolically overcome wrenching strife.  In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday, obviously intending the day’s spiritual message of reconciliation and togetherness as a counter to the death and Henry_David_Thoreaudestruction scarring the nation. With this in mind, the idea of ‘Brown Thursday’ reeks of sacrilege.

And so, as we sit down this Thursday to enjoy family and friends, and our mind wanders to the flat screen TV on sale for only two hours at Wal-Mart,  it may be good to pause and reflect on Henry David Thoreau’s words:

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.