I live in the Northeastern United States for a reason: I love the seasons (and I’m holding onto them as long as climate change will let me). I especially love autumn, though — the colorful leaves, the comfort food, the football, the holidays. All the best holidays occur in the fall; the winter Monday holidays are mostly for quick getaways or shopping bargains, and Memorial Day is a great excuse for a cookout . . . as is July 4th . . . and Labor Day . . . so you see my point? Easter and Passover have their solemn traditions, but for three quarters of the year, nearly all of the holidays we celebrate are both redundant and fairly insignificant. But Thanksgiving . . . Thanksgiving is the middle and best of three holidays that celebrate this part of the year:
1. You’ll Never See So Much Food (until next year) – Of course I started with the food! What greater luxury could exist than a holiday dedicated to EATING? Whether you roast your turkey or smoke it, serve mac-and-cheese or mashed potatoes, garnish with cranberry sauce or gravy, prefer Russets or yams, cornbread or Parker House rolls . . . see? That’s eight options and I haven’t even reached actual vegetables, salad, soup or dessert. The beauty of Thanksgiving is that it’s all about the meal. You don’t even have to make these choices. You can eat some of everything on the table, make Aunt Edythe happy that you like her cooking, and still have the weekend to work it all off, because Thanksgiving also offers . . .
2. You Have An Extra-Long Weekend – Stay up late watching holiday movies. Go to Best Buy at 4 a.m. (why? I don’t know . . .). Spend your days and nights doing whatever you want. You have three full days — literally 72 hours — to catch up on your sleep, make lots of cookies, overdose on college football, find endless ways to serve turkey and stuffing. And that’s not including the actual holiday, which is, as I said, all about those things anyway.
3. No Presents – Can’t figure out what to get Cousin Martha to match her gingham wardrobe? Don’t know Grandpa’s shirt size? Save all that worry for . . . well, Friday, maybe, but you can put it off for the weekend if you want. Thanksgiving requires no gifts. Just show up with your appetite, good manners (please), and maybe a pie as a contribution to the National Day of Pot Luck. No trees, no ribbons, no packages required.
4. There’s Football – If you’re a football fan, Thanksgiving is your weekend. With two pro games on Thursday (and this year the Detroit Lions are actually winning), at least two college games on Friday, and the usual line-up of both on Saturday and Sunday, you’ll barely need to leave the couch except to refresh the snack bowl. Even a sad Penn State fan might find something to cheer about.
5. It’s the Beginning of Extended Holiday Shopping Hours – I have never figured out why, but some people — including some I love dearly — like to line up at midnight to catch super-early holiday sales. Really, I don’t understand this desire on a weekend that is built around so much lazy luxuriating, but if dawn at Target is your thing, start napping to prepare. The stores try to make this activity even more appealing by offering deals like plasma TVs for $1; if you go, try not to mow anyone down with your shopping cart. People have been trampled at these sales. Be careful, and enjoy!
6. Black Friday – The original post-Thanksgiving shopping tradition, Black Friday is the shopping day on which retailers plan to return their ledgers to the black, hence the name, “Black Friday.” In this endless recession (that allegedly ended in February of 2010), the stores need us more than ever, and who are we not to help them out? After all, consumer confidence is a leading indicator of economic recovery. So come on; it’s Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus! Go out and get more stuff for those nice friends of yours who already have too much stuff. They’ll thank you for it with some new stuff for you!
7. Santa is at the Mall – Okay, okay, he’s already been at some malls for two weeks. But respect Thanksgiving, and treat the day AFTER as the start of the Christmas season. Use the weekend to get those holiday photos of the kids — or you and your best friends — on Santa’s lap.
8. Holiday Movies and Animated Specials – As I said above, you can spend all weekend watching them, because they start now. Cable television has an endless supply of channels with nothing to broadcast, and many of them start their holiday programming on Thanksgiving Day. Check your local listings, and I bet you’ll find at least one showing of “The Christmas Story,” with Peter Billingsley. I don’t know how or when it became a classic, but it did, and it really is funny. There’ll be more. Take a look.
9. It Has Parades – Macy’s is, of course, the Thanksgiving Day Parade to end all Thanksgiving Day Parades, but if you live in a major city, chances are yours has its own turkey trotting down the center of town, with bands, dancers and floats leading and trailing behind. Your local high school glee club, cheerleading squad or marching band may even be participating.
10. It’s Ecumenical – Thanksgiving — thank goodness! — is the one holiday celebrated by all of us. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist; any racial or ethnic group; in America we all have something for which to be grateful to a higher power than our own. You can wish everyone “Happy Thanksgiving” with no fear of the PC police. Whether it’s for the opportunity to gather, the people with whom to gather, the food we’re overeating, or just the day off, Thanksgiving is the day when all of us, whoever we are, can take a breath and acknowledge that whatever else may be wrong, we at least have THIS. And that’s enough.