Thanksgiving: How Should we Spend this Holiday?

Last year I wrote about Independence Day and how our forefathers made clear that it was a holiday meant to be celebrated with our neighbors, rather family.  If your family happens to live on the same street, that would be the exception.  But, by and large, our forefathers we quite clear on what the importance of Independence Day was for our country, and that it was the people to our left and right that we should be celebrating with, as it was those people to our left and right that fought hardest along with us.

Another holiday that gets misconstrued thanks to advertisement is that of Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday that turns our airports, railroads, and even bus stations into a fiasco.

The movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles dissected this very issue through the genius comedy of John Candy, and help from Steve Martin.  In the movie, Martin an ad-man, is trying to get home promptly prior to Thanksgiving from New York City to Chicago.  Candy, a travelling salesman bumps into Martin on his way to his gate, and the two are reluctantly attached at the hip for a three or four-day fiasco that has them landing in Wichita, Kansas, getting stuck in a pasture in Missouri (if I recall correctly), and in between catching rides with some of the Midwest’s most stereotypical redneck types.  It’s funny, and a bit typical.

At any rate, the movie centers around Martin’s immense desire to get home to his family, where his parents have flown in already, and kids are waiting, and so on and so forth.  And, it’s a nice a movie to play during Thanksgiving, if you’re into that sort of thing.

But, the problem here is that this movie is likely the product of an onslaught of nonsense that travel agencies, airlines, and Amtrak has sold to all of us for years prior to the 80’s: we should be with family during Thanksgiving.

I grew up in a house that demanded it.  In fact,  I believe that the most terse words I’ve heard from my mother were times I had to confront the fact that I would not be home for Thanksgiving.

And being with family during holidays is great.  I wouldn’t suggest it to be a bad thing, necessarily.

But, I will say that we’re not doing the holiday of Thanksgiving justice, in the way it was defined by our forefathers.

For one, look back at the original Thanksgiving.  It was a major feast between pilgrims and native Americans.  They came together, broke bread, corn, fish, and lots of other food that would likely scare us all the way it was prepared.

It’s fair to say that at this particular Thanksgiving, there were family members among the larger group.  But the difference here was, that these people were all neighbors together.  They lived separate lives day to day, and although there was much in the way of interaction prior to this one day, they didn’t necessarily rely on each other from minute to minute.

From this Thanksgiving, came many Thanksgivings that brought us to 1776.  All of these Thanksgivings were with neighbors, the people most close by proximity.  And true, families still were living together, or in the same town as one another, but the idea of sitting down with your neighbor played a more important role.

You may wonder why that is.  I can tell you, it’s because people had Christian values, and were living the example of how to treat their neighbor.  That is why Thanksgiving in the past was a very neighborly endeavor.

There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be the case now.  All of this air travel that we put ourselves through, because we have little in the way of vacation to take, because we had to take all our vacation days in the summer.  It’s madness.

Part of the fabric of our country is developing meaningful relationships with those closest to us, and that’s our neighbors.

I heard one person talk about the fact that when it came to raising money for medical bills, they didn’t know what people did before Go Fund Me came along.  I can tell you what they did.

First, medical bills were not nearly as high as they are today, so that’s helpful.  Second, their neighbors pitched in.  I know that might throw some people off, but the fact of the matter is, neighborhoods in the US were at their strongest when the neighbors were their closest allies.

And now we’ve let all that slip away.  It really didn’t take long.  I think as a kid, growing up in the 80’s, quite a bit of that sunk in then.  And yes, there was some of it developing even as far back as the 40’s, thanks to racism, classism, even politics.

But the age of technology has truly wreaked havoc on this concept of being neighborly.  Somehow we’ve reached a point where we have more in common with a total stranger than we do the family living right next door for the past ten years.  How can you not think that is sad?

So if you’re truly interested in doing something about this issue, consider creating a traditional Thanksgiving in your neighborhood.  But don’t look up recipes from the Pilgrim era, you’ll hate them, and it will be sure to keep the neighbors away for good.

I think in the end, you’ll find the wisdom in developing solid bonds with your neighbors, and sharing in the delight of a holiday or two with them.  The airlines will get plenty of your money come Christmas!

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