Thursday, November 22, 2007


Here we are back in the US for Thanksgiving.

I have had several questions from Irish friends and colleagues about Thanksgiving and it got me to thinking about this quintessentially American holiday.

Thanksgiving is becoming the most important US holiday because, i think, it addresses our need for a holiday that is all inclusive, non-religious, that celebrates family (whatever that means to you). We take a certain amount of flack about the amount of food we consume on this day since it is essentially a holiday for eating, but what other activity is so disctinctly human and sharing than food.

Few elements of the human condiiton are as universal as eating. Sitting down to a meal with friends and family is a key psychological bonding event. In many cultures, being invited to share a meal is an indication of acceptance and trust far exceeding any other.

We also take a lot of flack about the commercial aspects of our holidays, how the big sales start on the day after Thanksgiving and how much we spend on things at this time of year.

But to this i respond, "What should we do instead?" If we all stopped buying gifts to give then much of our workforce would be put out of jobs. retailers make it into the black each year because of the holiday season sales. without that, the economy of the US would literally be devastated.

But back to Thanksgiving. It is a holiday invented by the Lincoln administration, later coopted to spur sales, but uniquely egalitarian in its appeal. It celebrates in a sense the most common of human elements, the need for family and the need for sustenance.

We are long past the time when our thanks are for successful harvests. Sufficient food to feed ourselves for the next year is a givien in this day and age. We give thanks now for many things, family, health, propsperity, survival. But being thankful for culinary bounty is still a part of the holiday, still a comforting thought even in a day of always plentiful food.

Thanksgiving is a comfortable holiday (with its attendant family dramas and squabbles, of course) and I heartilly recommend it to anyone who has never tried it. At a time when we as a people are more and more divided by small things, this generic holiday of just being thankful for what you have, of seeing family and friends, of indulging in a good meal wth all its concomitant endorphins, this holiday is one the world can share. It is an intrinsically human holiday.

If you don't have a thanksgiving holiday in your part of the world, I strongly recommend you get one soon!