Posted on November 23, 2012
We had 42 for dinner and 52 for dessert at our Thanksgiving Day gathering. Ages ran from 2 to 94 (my mother). Guests were from as far away as China and Russia and Italy and from troubled places like Syria.
We loved this editorial from the NY Times and read it aloud as our “grace” at dinner:
When Thursday Vanishes
Over the years, we have come to love the fixedness of Thanksgiving. Always on a Thursday, by proclamation, this holiday is unmindful of anyone’s inconvenience. Even Christmas Day must fall on a weekend some years, but never Thanksgiving. It causes as much fuss as possible — a stir that disrupts the entire week, year after year. Yet when the last of the guests have arrived and everyone is seated at the table, there comes a pause, a toast, a grace — long or short, secular or sacred, vocal or silent — that says what this holiday is for. Thursday vanishes, and in its place is Thanksgiving.
It’s natural to look inward on this day, at the faces around the table, the private rituals that make each family’s holiday its own. It’s easy to forget that it remains Thursday on the rest of the planet. For this day, at least, America and Americans everywhere seem to cast off from the world at large, to stand apart for a few moments of contemplation. Perhaps you know the feeling if you’ve ever lived abroad when late November comes — the way Americans seek each other out on this holiday, the way you proselytize pumpkin pie, the way traditions you somehow took for granted suddenly find a new power to move you. You dust off the Norman Rockwell corner of your heart, which you didn’t even know existed, and patiently explain the virtues of corn-bread stuffing.
There is an adage that says “enough is as good as a feast.” We celebrate having enough by having the feast. Over the centuries, thanks of every sort have attached themselves to this day: thanks for deliverance from war, from loss, from suffering, from despair; thanks for increase and plenty, for duty and service, for fulfillment and enduring hope, for one generation succeeding another. That one meal can be so solemn and so joyful, so expressive — always comes as a surprise.
Thanksgiving has become our favorite holiday, even more Christmas. The latter has become bloated with consumerism and has spilled out beyond its bounds (even violating our beloved Thanksgiving with stores opening yesterday — shame!).
I am going to argue for big Thanksgivings and making Christmas “smaller” and more modest. If Christmas can invade Thanksgiving, then maybe Thanksgiving’s focus on family and friends, on gathering in gratitude, and a focus on food could help reclaim the spirit of Christmas from WalMart and Target and Amazon.