A Short Thanksgiving Summary
Thanksgiving is one of America’s biggest holidays. In fact, unless you work in retail or a service industry (e.g., restaurants, hospitals, law enforcement, etc.), it promises the longest chunk of days off (four-day weekend, w00t!) The story behind Thanksgiving that we all grow up learning (and often enacting in kindergarten plays) is that of the Pilgrims who sailed across the Atlantic to seek religious freedom. They were not prepared for the weather or the different land, and about half of them perished during the harsh winter. In the Spring, the Native American Squanto (who has an amazing story) taught the Pilgrims how to harvest corn, catch fish, and survive in their new home. When the corn was harvested in autumn, the Pilgrims organized a feast of Thanksgiving and invited their new Native American allies. Days of Thanksgiving weren’t uncommon among the religious settlers who desired to thank God for their blessings and provision. The early presidents issued Days of Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday that it was celebrated on an annual basis across America. For more details, see The History Channel’s summary of the history of American Thanksgiving: History Channel’s Thanksgiving History
Thanksgiving Growing Up in the Midwest
There were four main holidays that my family celebrated throughout my childhood: Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July (Independence Day), and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was probably the least exciting of the four, and varied the most as far as traditions went, but it was still a fun time of getting together with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins over a big meal. I tend to place most of my sentimentality on traditions that were repeated throughout the years…For us that included watching T.V. shows like “Mouse on the Mayflower“, making Thanksgiving-themed crafts with Mom (like hand turkeys or turkeys made out of toilet paper rolls). It was a feel-good holiday that began with church in the morning followed by big meals with family and sharing what we were thankful for. In the 6th grade, our science teacher asked us to try to sit through Thanksgiving dinner without complaining about anything ONCE…instead to sit back and listen to others. We were commissioned to come up with lists of things we were thankful for, a tradition that I think is very healthy for anyone to do (at any time of the year, for that matter).
The Transition to Friendsgiving
Since moving away from home for college, grad school, and now my job, I have only gone home for Thanksgiving twice (both times were paid by others). The unfortunate fact about Thanksgiving travel is that plane ticket prices soar, and it was a trip I could never afford. As a college student living in Florida, the four-day weekend wasn’t long enough to drive (it takes 22 non-stop hours to drive to Wisconsin from my university on the central coast). When I moved out to California for grad school, the distance was even longer. So, instead, I would stay put for Thanksgiving and save up my money to fly home for the longer Christmas break. The $8/hour (or was it $6?) work study I did during the school year gave me the ability to do that, at least. In fact, whenever I made decisions about purchases (such as the rare dinner out to TGIFs with friends), I would compare the price with the cost of a plane ticket and ask myself, “Is this dinner worth an hour of my time? Is it worth taking money away from a future flight home?”
Of course, I missed being with family for Thanksgiving…But economics meant that I had to form new traditions: namely, “Friendsgiving”. [Read more…]