When You Grow Up: Understanding Thanksgiving

Dear Reader,

I suppose I am somewhat biased of my opinion of Thanksgiving. After all, I am a vegetarian, so the idea of putting a bird on the table and eating it offers no appeal. I am also not a fan of eating custards and creamy desserts, so there go the pies. Mashed potatoes offer no excitement, either.

Perhaps my tastes have changed over the years. I am sure that, to many, I must be considered boring. I might be thought of as strange. But what feels much stranger to me is the tradition of Thanksgiving. Now, I do not mean to offer a great deal of criticism to this American holiday. Clearly, the numbers in statistics show that enough people enjoy it. Some people really like it. And for the longest time, I did not consider this. It seemed like very normal behavior. And I suppose, in the American culture, excitement over Thanksgiving is considered normal. where does this excitement come from?

Looking at the origins of Thanksgiving, it seems that there might have been a disconnect between what happened and what was taught. As a child, I learned that Thanksgiving came as a result of a feast between the pilgrims (who had just came to America via the Mayflower ship) and the Native Americans who were already here in America. There were no problems with either of these two groups, and so they sat down to a happy feast together.

Regardless about the accuracy of this information, feasting was more of a normal activity in earlier centuries. It was more accepted than it is now. Though some may still eat the same amount of calories with pizza and beer following the weekly football games, the act of the feast back then signaled a large celebration. It was a gift not to be wasted. It is therefore interesting that, though feasting and parties have evolved, the eating patterns for Thanksgiving have not. On average, a Thanksgiving meal for one person is around 7,000 calories. This is not for the entire day (which would already be 3.5x more calories than what is recommended for the average sedentary adult), but is just for one meal. This means that any appetizers, breakfast, snacks, and/or other meals are not included in this number.

Now, if people want to eat this way for the day, that is their choice. My target is to understand why. Breaking down the word of “Thanksgiving”, of course, means that one is projecting a thankful attitude to whatever they are focusing on. This typically takes place right before a meal. Now, having a meal on a day of thanks makes sense. But how many really understand and use this definition? Is Thanksgiving about feeling gratitude for the blessings that one has or is it about stuffing your face?

There is certainly some irony here. If we are to be grateful for what we have, why do we have to have such an abnormally large meal? By giving thanks, we are saying that we have enough. Yet by eating this much, we are saying that we need massive quantities in order to feel satisfied. Assuming we do not have 7,000 calories per day, we are saying that we need more than normal because a normal meal is not enough. (And when we consider all of the Thanksgiving sales that go along with the holiday, we are saying that we need to buy, buy, buy more things because what we have is not enough. This is a large contradiction and, when considered enough, takes away a lot of the spirit of the holiday).

If we are to go through with the holiday, then let’s really think about it means. Consider what you have now, right at this moment, and not what you are going to possibly receive in the future. Do you have enough? Instead of gorging on food, let’s feast on the blessings we have, particularly those blessings that are not usually acknowledged. By being aware and by being grateful, we can have a holiday worth remembering.

Reader, what does Thanksgiving mean to you? As you have gotten older, has your viewpoint of the holiday changed? If so, how?


Jumbled Writer


2 Responses to When You Grow Up: Understanding Thanksgiving

  1. As a farmer’s daughter Thanksgiving has always made sense to me. It was a time of extremely hard labors that produced the storage of food for the long winter. We always thanked God for our bounty. Without it, we might starve through the winter. I imagine farmer’s today still understand that. I would compare it to a squirrel I guess. Maybe squirrel’s give thanks too?
    You are right – as now the concept may be lost to urban dwellers and schools that don’t teach accuracy. Maybe the whole Thanksgiving should become ‘ Thank Farmer’s Day’ or something as we thank those that produce the food we all have. Then the concept wouldn’t be lost. Without them we might starve. Just a thought.

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