Giving Thanks For Thanksgiving

Filament’s Jack Novak shares with us his being thankful  for Thanksgiving itself and how we form our own narratives for our holiday experiences. 

Every year we hear a lot of talk about what to give thanks for at Thanksgiving. For my own part, I will say that I am currently more focused on the holiday itself. I am thankful for Thanksgiving. Of course when I sit at the thanksgiving table I’m sure I’ll think of many other things that I am genuinely thankful for, but right now I’m pretty focused on just making it to that table full of home-cooked delight. Is that bad?

“If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be a tedious as to work, but when they seldom come, they wished-for come” – that’s Shakespeare. After all, what is the point of a holiday? I’m pretty sure most of us don’t celebrate Thanksgiving to pay homage to the historical relationship of the pilgrims and the Native Americans (actually Thanksgiving’s ‘true’ history has prompted some protests to the holiday). Similarly most of us probably don’t give much thought to the Christian narrative behind Christmas, and still fewer to its Pagan roots.

I think we tend to create our own narrative for holidays. We do this in much the same way that a storyteller finds his own meaning in an ancient folktale – anyone who saw our “From the Circle” will have some insight into that comparison. Any ancient story, ritual, or holiday is somewhat mysterious to a contemporary observer. These are things that have spawned from generations of collective observation, belief, and imagination, and are therefore full of symbols, references, and metaphors which are not immediately accessible (much like Shakespeare’s plays, in fact). We add a little of our own society into the mix in order to have a way to access the whole. Thanksgiving is a potent example of this. Although few celebrate the history of Thanksgiving, even fewer lack their own unique family folklore surrounding the holiday. This folklore is present down to the smallest detail – who cuts the turkey, who brings the pecan pie. A friend of mine has a particularly odd Thanksgiving tradition in his family – they pick up the turkey and ‘walk’ it to the pan. Yes, that’s right, they make the turkey look like it’s walking to the pan before they cook it. This goes back to his father being a young boy having just moved to the U.S. His older sister, in an attempt to make the new American holiday of Thanksgiving more…entertaining? who knows…walked the turkey to the pan, and this strange ritual stuck.

So, I guess, this coming Thursday, as you’re giving thanks for whatever other noble things, don’t forget to also give thanks for Thanksgiving – and not just Thanksgiving in general, but your Thanksgiving. I’m sure it is a holiday worth celebrating.

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