Thanksgiving: Explained

so many cultural holidays, the modern-day celebration of
Thanksgiving has come a long way from its 17th century origins.

Popular history cites that in 1621, pilgrims in Massachusetts
sat down for a feast to celebrate the first harvest in their new
land. Over the course of nearly 400 years, the tradition has stuck
(with some permutations) and to this day, Americans – and an
increasing number of non-Americans – gather with families and close
friends on the fourth Thursday of November to give thanks for their
good fortune.

Or so Hallmark would have you believeā€¦

The reality of modern-day Thanksgivings across the United States
tends to be a little less quaint. Like Halloween, New Year’s and
Christmas, Thanksgiving is a holiday that Americans LOVE but one
that also threatens to bring them to the brink of a meltdown.

Some will find themselves completely obliterated in a verbal showdown with drunk Grandma

Travel, for starters, is notoriously nightmarish on the
Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving. With most employees granted a
whopping TWO days off (Black Friday bonus of course) Thanksgiving
presents a rare opportunity to travel across America to visit loved
ones without sacrificing paid time off. As such, offices are
largely abandoned by Wednesday lunchtime, with employees fleeing
cities in an apocalyptic hysteria. Airports, train stations and
roads swell with frantic bodies hoping that the first snow of the
season doesn’t throw their entire long weekend. (And yes, the first
snow of the season almost always arrives on Thanksgiving, as if the
gods are determined to continue a cruel inside joke.)

If you’re lucky to make it home, the next set of hurdles present
themselves. Distant family members, uncomfortable new
boyfriends/girlfriends being brought home for the first time, one
person struggling to put together a four-course feast for 20 people
and an abundance of alcohol make Thursday a social minefield. Few
make it through the day unscathed and some will find themselves
completely obliterated in a verbal showdown with drunk Grandma.

For those with totally harmonious family dynamics (good for you)
there’s always the self-hatred and loathing that comes with a day
of non-stop eating and general immobility. Apart from the main
event – a giant roast turkey -Thanksgiving food favourites include:
sausage stuffing, sweet cranberry sauce, sweet potato with
marshmallows (really) and a deliciously rich pumpkin pie. FYI, most
hosts will have at least four desserts on offer. Sure, there’s the
obligatory collection of vegetable sides, but the focus is on
carbs, meat and sugar. The Friday morning comedown is generally
cured by the hair of the dog: leftovers, more alcohol and crazy
sales shopping.

Yes, Black Friday – the most notorious retail day of the year –
marks the launch of the holiday season and the ultimate opportunity
to get all of your Christmas shopping done at a bargain. Of course
in reality, most Americans, already on the heels of their day of
gluttony, treat themselves to a day of retail therapy and save
actual Christmas shopping for 24 December (arguably a day of
greater stress and more drinking).

So yeah, Thanksgiving doesn’t have the best reputation. There’s
also the uncomfortable history of the Native American massacre
brought on by the very pilgrims whose tradition we emulate – but
that’s a much longer discussion for another time.