Ah, Thanksgiving. The day of turkey, pumpkin pie, parades, football, and James Bond marathons. This particular North American holiday, notably secular amongst several religious observances in the season, is quite fascinating to me. It’s origins are interesing–and though I won’t go into detail here and now, historians might describe its pragmatic establishment from the Protestent Reformation, and school children will speak of Pilgrims and native tribes playing nice with one another and sharing harvests in merriment.
Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S. (and the 2nd Monday of October in Canada), Thanksgiving is, of course, about giving thanks. It represents many delightful elements, and some curiously oxymoronic aspects. (More on the latter in a bit.) For those who enjoy food, it’s all about the cornucopia (pun intended) of rich, abundant, delicious dishes. Turkey, cornbread, greenbeans, corn, cranberry sauce (a must!), stuffing, yams, etc. The pie–pumpkin, cherry, apple, blueberry, for starters. Variances depending on the region. (We won’t speak of the recent popularity of turducken–turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken. Gyuck.)
Oftentimes family, friends, coworkers, or even perfect strangers gather to partake in a shared meal and shared comraderie. Perhaps watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, or catch the highlighted game of American football. Every year you can count on cable television airing a marathon of James Bond movies. Just thinking about the holiday makes me think of lazing around the house with an overstuffed tummy–or, in something more fitting for the spirit of the day, volunteering at a local food kitchen to see that all enjoy a hearty meal.
Now….here’s the part about Thanksgiving that always confuses and amuses me. It’s the day of giving thanks, right? And yet it’s just as notorious–in recent decades, at least–for the shopping holiday that follows: Black Friday (so named for the fact that this historically began the segment of the year in which retailers would find their ledgers showing profits from all the holiday spending–so their numbers were “in the black” rather than “in the red,” in debt.)
Black Friday is the day in which we admit that, though thankful, we could really use a new television. Or a Blu-ray player. Or a 50-pound bag of pita chips (y’know, just in case). Sales start as early as Thanksgiving morning, and for some stores, actual stampedes of hundreds is to be expected. Signs for 50, 60, 80 percent off items will be closely followed by lines of shoppers. (Take this gem of an example YouTube video.)
It’s that dichotomy of immense generosity and general goodwill, set up against the ferocity with which people seek more…stuff, that makes that particular holiday so much more interesting. That said, Thanksgiving is something of a bookish holiday for me. After a good, hearty meal or two (stretchy pants are a must), I like to catch a Bond film and relax on the couch with a book while family mills about. And then on Black Friday (and now Cyber Monday, the newest web continuation of BF), I treat myself to a stack of half-priced bestseller books. (What? I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite. ^_^)
Topically, I wish there were more Thanksgiving-themed books. It seems like Christmas gets all the love when it comes to holiday novels. Understandable, insofar as Christmas is common in many parts of the world and is one of the larger holidays…but I can see a Thanksgiving backdrop providing fodder for the most precious romances. Gratitude? Food?Love? Bounty? More food? What’s not to love about a story with those elements?
At any rate, I digress (finally). The moral of this tale is: Thanksgiving is a lovely, weird, inspirational holiday that warms many hearts and sets the stage for the holiday season. And if you celebrate it, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, indeed.
So, tell me…. do you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, what’s your most/least favorite aspect? Have you ever read a Thanksgiving-themed book? (Which? Love to know!)