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Thanksgiving is a fickle woman. And like women of all sorts — especially the fickle ones — she confuses me. When it comes to Thanksgiving, there are two ideas that stand out above all the rest (in my mind) as being incompatible with the holiday. I alluded to each of them in yesterday’s short story, but plan to approach them in a more straightforward fashion today:
- How do Americans who don’t believe in any God celebrate Thanksgiving? To whom are they thankful? Sure you can be thankful to your parents for supporting you as a child (or as a grad school student) or to your neighbors for running the carpool a few days a week — but ultimately doesn’t a holiday like Thanksgiving require that we be thankful to a larger being? Isn’t Thanksgiving for the non-religious really just a form of saying, “I’m really thankful to myself that I’ve produced these various blessings in my life. I’m so glad I have them, and was able to accomplish so much?”
- On Thanksgiving Day, we celebrate that we are truly thankful for the many blessings we’ve received and for all that we have. But isn’t it ironic that we, on the very next day, reveal that what we have is still not enough — and we continue to demonstrate this through Christmas? “While we’re really thankful, God, for all the blessings you’ve poured out on us, we’re still not content. So we’ll set aside a day to thank you, but a full month to buy more things for ourselves.”* And some of us can’t even wait until daylight on Friday to get started.
Let me end with a limerick, as requested by good friend and loyal reader, JMF:
Thanksgiving is a fickle woman, it’s true.
She eats turkey while saying “Thank you.”
To herself does she say it,
Or to God does she pray it?
Doesn’t matter, let the shopping ensue.
* And before we argue that Christmas is a time of giving — and these presents we’re buying aren’t for ourselves — we should reflect on how often we give money or gift certificates or receive exactly what we knew we would receive. I’m afraid we mostly think of Christmas as an opportunity to buy ourselves something, but by exchanging lists with others so as not to seem greedy.**
** I am every bit as guilty of this as anyone else — maybe more so. I’ve wanted a set of golf clubs for some time (unavailable here), and so I asked my family to give me money towards those clubs, and (get this) I bought the clubs myself with my own VISA check card and arranged for a friend to bring them to me when she visits in December. My family is reimbursing me for a present I bought myself. That’s just sick, isn’t it?