Halloween is my favorite holiday. But Thanksgiving follows close behind for second, even though it is wrought with historical yuck. I recently tried to explain to a student, who is from Lebanon, why it’s such a nice holiday while she was talking about the historical fallacies of the American Indians and the Pilgrims having a lovely meal together.
She’s right. Just like Columbus Day, we celebrate a day based in colonialism. How does one reconcile this history?
For me, what is nice is that my husband and I invite friends and family to our house for a home cooked meal. My husband is an amazing and generous cook and his love and ability to make food, like an artist, really brings people together. We’ve always invited friends for Thanksgiving since we first started having them and those Thanksgivings are much more memorable than the ones with just family. So how does a radical feminist reconcile colonialism with what has now become a day to reflect on gratitude? All I can say is I don’t know. I just know that we try to take a moment and be grateful for what we have. And I try to include a diversity of people around my table.
There are other contradictions like this. Thanksgiving is quickly followed by the corporate sponsored holiday, Christmas, which was once a christian sponsored holiday. The commercialization is nauseating. In fact, I’m so overwhelmed by it, I try to just tune it out to the best of my ability and work hard to avoid wanting anything I see on tv, like the new kindle fire! I don’t even have a kindle, even though I have been asking for years. (Hint Hint, Jefferey Gonsalves!)
Last year I made a concerted effort to buy gifts on Small Business Saturday. But even that is sponsored by American Express. And I love shopping online, which of course means going to Amazon, and more recently Etsy. I wish I had the time and energy I had in my 20s when my partner and I would make presents for everyone. We had so much fun figuring out what to make and then mass producing them for family and friends. We made chimes out of recycled materials, block prints of peace signs, homemade kahlua, homemade sambuca. Then we started earning a better living and got too busy, or was it just lazy?
On the in-law side of the family, we try to do a Yankee Swap so it is fun and each person can bring just one gift. And it is fun, if everyone participates. This year, I bought two of the same things we are going to give to a lot of different people. Both of these items fall under the tool category and are really helpful. I want to give present’s that make people’s lives easier.
My husband and I stopped giving each other Christmas gifts a few years ago. We usually do a stocking and a card. Our birthday’s fall in February so it seemed silly to spend money on each other with a month in between. This year we will buy new hiking shoes for our trip to Hawaii in January. But no matter what, and no matter where I shop, it will be overwhelming and stressful and a lot of money. This is the piece that stays with me as I tune out all the commercials for Christmas. And that is the emotion I want to remove from the holidays. And that is probably why Thanksgiving is so nice, because it’s not about giving, it’s just about being present. And isn’t that enough? I don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe while we’re eating our Turkey we should talk about how we’re trying to end commercialism and racism and all those “isms” that make our world such an icky place. This year, instead of sharing something we are thankful for, or sharing gratitude, maybe we will share a way we are trying to make this a better world. For everyone.