Thanksgiving is coming, and it’s time to stock up for what I think is the best holiday on the calendar. I mean it. Better than Christmas, which I love. Better than the Fourth of July, which has explosions. Better even than my birthday, which for some reason has not become the national holiday I predicted as a kid.
Thanksgiving trumps them all, and not just because it’s the best dinner of the year (more about that in a minute). It’s the one day of the year when we come as close as we’re going to get to a “shared American experience,” with the overwhelming majority of us doing exactly the same thing – sitting down to share a meal in gratitude.
Also, there’s football.
Thanksgiving means so much to me that I get annoyed, genuinely annoyed, when I see it shoved to the side in order to get started on Christmas, like the stores that start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving afternoon. What do they call that, anyway? Gray Thursday? Gray … the color of a dingy shirt. Blech.
Thanksgiving also means so much that I have a request for you to consider: Could people please, PLEASE stop calling it “Turkey Day?”
I’ve always found that nickname demeaning for such a great day. It takes the emphasis away from gratitude and puts it on a dumb bird. And I do mean dumb. I don’t know how many of you have actually met domestic turkeys, but take it from me, you don’t want them doing your taxes.
What if we did this to other holidays? Would we call Christmas “Presents Day?” Would Easter be “Colored Egg Day” or “Chocolate Bunny Day?” Or maybe we already do and I just haven’t been paying attention.
One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is that we have this shared experience, with most of us sitting down to the same main course (vegetarians excepted) but expressing our individuality with the trimmings.
For years, just for fun, I’ve been asking people what is the one side dish that is their family’s must-have, a dish that has to be on the table even if nobody eats it. My mother’s gelatin salad comes to mind. It’s awful and nobody eats it, but it shows up on the table every Thanksgiving because the table would look wrong without it.
The answers have ranged from the expected – noodles, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese – to more esoteric offerings like chitlins, oysters Rockefeller, braised turnips in mustard cream and cranberry-horseradish sauce. What the heck. They all sounded OK to me. Except the chitlins.
Which gets me back to turkey. I believe it was Garrison Keillor who wrote that if you limit yourself to one turkey a year, maybe two at the most, it can be spectacular. Any more than that and it starts to become just another roasted bird. Maybe that’s another reason I love Thanksgiving so much. I follow the Keillor turkey consumption principle so it’s a meal I always look forward to. And then I make sure to shake things up at Christmas by roasting a goose. I’m a daredevil that way.
Whew. There. I’m glad we could have this little talk. I feel much better now. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some grocery shopping to do. And no, I am not buying chitlins.
Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on speaking fees and availability, visit www.spotlightwww.com.