Thanksgiving, the greatest of all American holidays, evolves tremendously during your lifetime
27 November, 2014
Thanksgiving, the greatest of all American holidays, evolves tremendously during your lifetime
When we are small children, Thanksgiving is about how the Pilgrims came to the New World and were helped by the friendly Native Americans who kept them from starving to death by sharing their food and teaching farming techniques.

In our teenage years, the Thanksgiving meal is little more than an awkward collection of distant relatives and acts as mostly an outlet to let off angst at the parental units who won’t let you try the wine and who oppress
you by not letting you skip the meal and just go to Steve’s house. Also there is your drunk uncle and football season.
Later, as first year university students who have just read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Thanksgiving is more about going home for the break and spitting vitriol at your family about how the Pilgrims murdered and enslaved the Native Americans, and we are all hypocrites for thinking we discovered a continent filled with people. The Vikings ‘found’ it first anyway.
As an adult living abroad, Thanksgiving is about finding a collection of lovable misfits and characters that you can look at from across a large table filled with food and drink, fire crackling in the background, Miles or Coltrane playing softly through the speakers, and say, “Yes, this is good, I am glad I am here with these people, life could be much, much worse, and for this I am thankful.”
As that adult living abroad, in a country known perhaps best for the act, neigh, the art of collecting a group of people around a table for the sole purpose of consuming almost unquantifiable amounts of food and drink, I find it funny that the Georgians I have talked to about Thanksgiving don’t see why we, Americans find it such a big deal.
And it’s a fair question. Most intelligent adults acknowledge that the story we are presented with as children makes little, if any sense, but thanksgiving has a certain je ne sais quoi. America, and Americans are often too busy to remember to stop and smell the roses, or the turkey, and Thanksgiving gives them that opportunity to take a Thursday off, drink some beers, eat too much, and watch the game.
For Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, et al. Americans it’s a way to show your enjoyment and love for America without all the Jesus that other holidays that gather friends, family and neighbors together require.
It does not require rampant consumerism and unhealthy sugar binges like Halloween or good weather like Independence Day. All you need is a big table, people whose faces you can stand, and a suitably large dead animal. Which brings us to turkey.
Long the symbol of the day, turkey, if we are being honest is not very good. When compared to almost any other commonly eaten animal in America, a whole turkey is dry, tasteless, and filled with a natural chemical that makes you sleepy. Why it became the fowl de rigueur for this holiday, escapes me - but you know I really don’t care. What is important to note however is that you don’t need one. This year I am having a piglet. You can do chicken. It really doesn’t matter. What should be the symbol for the holiday, and the meal are the ‘fixins.’
Fixins, fixings, or side dishes are what make or break the Thanksgiving meal. Stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes and pies to name but a few. Those are the heart and soul of the meal, and what quite literally brings everyone together. Because Thanksgiving is far too big for one person, couple, or nuclear family to create. You must rely on your guests like the pilgrims relied on the generosity of the Native Americans. Each guest bearing gifts in the form of casserole dishes filled with whatever their families’ favorite thanksgiving or harvest holiday cuisine is. Creating a regional, national, or even international collection of dishes and cuisines for which we can all give thanks. This year I will enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner with Americans, Georgians, a Ukrainian and a German. We will drink Irish whiskey, eat American food and use Thai hot sauce.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about discovering America, killing millions of native people or a nationwide obesity problem. It’s about going to a new place or a familiar one, finding good people and being thankful for everything that you have right then and there.

Cory Greenberg
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