Looking for some Thanksgiving ideas for a different – and better – holiday? Look no further!
I’m not a big believer in Thanksgiving. Which is a shame, because I love holidays. All holidays. Halloween. Christmas. Diwali. Even Arbor Day, since I found out that was a real thing. I have since I was a child. When I was young, I used to start making my Christmas list (things that I wanted to receive, not things that I wanted to give other people) long before school started in September. Now, I’m that annoying adult that starts to listen to Christmas carols in October, just to get myself in the mood.
See – what I like about holidays is the “humanity coming together and being kind to each other” part. What I dislike about holidays is, well, everything else.
I hate the religion. I hate the fatty foods. I hate the consumerism.
It seems like American holidays, especially, are designed to make us fat and broke.
Around Thanksgiving, here’s a snapshot of what available junk foods look like for any given person: Starbucks’ holiday lattes. Holiday donuts. Desserts at work parties. Hot chocolate at home. Warm apple cider strolling through a holiday market. Popcorn. Pounds and pounds of mashed potatoes and gravy. Halloween candy. Chocolate peppermint bars. Almond bark. Pumpkin pie.
And on. And on.
All American holidays make us fat. But Thanksgiving is especially egregious to me because of what we’re actually celebrating, coupled with how we celebrate it.
First of all, we celebrate this holiday because colonists came to a country that wasn’t their own and killed all the natives, either forcefully or indirectly through disease. At some point, you have to imagine the Native Americans were like, “OH FUCK. Okay, we’re out numbered and these guys are clearly pricks, so let’s just try to make nice.” Then, the Native Americans go to the colonists and say “We’d like to be friends now (even though we’re basically just pretending to save our own asses).” Then, I imagine the colonists were like, “OKAY GREAT! Finally, you concede that the country is ours,” (here, the natives were all, “what the fuck? I didn’t say that) “so let’s all sit down together to a giant meal, including a sad, poor dead animal carcass that we slayed. Also, let’s say it’s because we’re giving thanks. WE’RE thankful that we were able to steal your country. I’m not sure what you should be thankful for, but let’s go with it anyway.”
So – theoretically – they all went together to kill a turkey, put it on the table and give thanks. (Of course, that’s not what really happened). But now, that’s what we think we’re supposed to do. There are so many things wrong with this, I’m not sure where to begin. The first is, why do we have to kill an animal to celebrate what we’re thankful for? Does that make sense? Is it because we’re ABLE to kill smaller animals, that don’t have any power against us? If that’s the case, you’d think then that the better way to give thanks would be to NOT kill the animal, to let it live it’s life as well. Is it because we think we should be fatter, and eating an animal is the only way to get there? I’m fairly certain that’s not the reason, but with many things we do, it’s simply not clear. If that is the case, which again, I can’t imagine, that leads me perfectly to my next point.
We’re fat. We’re SO fucking fat that other countries make fun of us. We’re SO fat that we’re dying more of heart disease, cancers and diabetes than anything else. And yet, starting “holiday season” which starts from October 1 and goes until February 15 (so what I’m saying is over 1/4 of the entire year) we “let ourselves” have treats because we tell ourselves “oh, we’re celebrating the holidays.” We eat cookies and candy and cake and eggnog (by the way, ew) and drink alcohol and allow ourselves to fall into a fat, disgusting stupor. The best part is that other people around us (I like to call them “Mass Enablers” – get it? I love puns) allow us to continue our horribly unhealthy behaviors because they (and we) say, “Oh it’s okay my New Year’s resolution is to get fit.” Really? How many times before did you make that New Year’s resolution? And how many times have you kept it? I imagine not that many because you’re still here, at the end of the year, celebrating the holidays by eating everything you can. “Resolution,” by definition, means a FIRM decision. If you’re still here, back in the same patterns you were in last year, gaining even more weight, I wouldn’t call that a “resolution” at all. I’d called it a failed attempt to change your life and now I’d say obviously, the way you’ve gone about it before, i.e. allowing yourself to eat whatever you want for several months and then going on a “diet” come the first of the year hasn’t worked, so it’s time to change.
And you know when the best time to make the change is? RIGHT FUCKING NOW before you eat another dead animal carcass or another pumpkin pie cheesecake.
The truth is, writing all this is kind of making me want to boycott Thanksgiving. I mean, someone completely foreign to our culture came to learn about us and we tried to explain Thanksgiving to them, I’m pretty sure they’d be like “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” And we would have no idea how to answer.
And the worst part is, it’s not just Thanksgiving day. Besides all the eating and eating and eating which goes on on Thanksgiving, which is an obvious problem (and I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one who has a problem with that), the next incredibly stupid and short-sighted thing we do is go out shopping all day the next day, buying things we probably can’t afford for other people who are buying us gifts they probably can’t afford. And it’s actually considered an almost holiday itself: Black Friday. I’ve always wonder why it’s called Black Friday. As I always do, I actually looked it up and found a few different explanations on the internet. Some seem to think it’s because extra police force is needed that day around malls and shopping centers (not a happy reason) and some seem to think it’s from this old legend of a man named Mr. Black, who was a beloved store owner who died the day after Thanksgiving. Apparently, the story goes that all his employees wore black the day after Thanksgiving the next year, but because of the retail success of the store, the original motive for calling it “Black Friday” was soon lost. I’m not sure what the reality is, but there seems to be one more prevalent explanation for Black Friday than any other: Americans spend so much money and companies MAKE so much money that this firmly puts them “in the black”, meaning, profitable.
I mean, seriously. We do it to ourselves.
Should we be just SLIGHTLY upset at ourselves that we participate in a “holiday” filled with rampant consumerism that is designed specifically to quietly leech the money from our wallets after spending the entire previous day getting fat and eating dead animals?
Here’s the answer: yes, yes we should be upset with ourselves and we should expect better of ourselves and demand no less.
What I really hate about Thanksgiving is that it’s the worst parts of something I love best – travel – and the worst parts of being an American. The entire holiday celebrates stealing a country from natives, for fuck’s sake.
Okay, #Endrant. I needed to get that out of my system. But now that it is out of my system, let me also say that I realize boycotting the “holiday” likely won’t do much – it’s here and it’s here to stay. Theoretically, we’re also supposed to give actual thanks for the good things in our lives – so that part of the holiday isn’t awful.
Instead of boycotting it, then, I’ve come up with some ways to change it. Instead of gorging ourselves on food and spending all of our money celebrating stealing the country from Native Americans, let’s do things differently.
Here are some ideas:
1. Do something nice for someone you know.
Notice I said “do something,” not “buy something.” Doing something genuinely nice for another human being doesn’t have to mean buying something for them – and most of the time, it specifically means not buying something. Listen to people when they talk, remember what they’ve said they need help with. For example, maybe a friend keeps stressing about her upcoming move. Go help her with it. Don’t ask. Just do.
2. Do something nice for someone you don’t know.
You don’t have to do something nice for just a friend – go find something nice to do for someone you’ve never met. Volunteer. Donate goods. Spend time working on the environment. Build a house. Go to a local hospital and see what help they need. Contribute in some way to making the world you leave a better place than the world you came into.
Here are some great places for you to volunteer your time or donate to:
3. Do something nice for an animal – ideally, a turkey – but any animal will do.
Go to your local shelter and visit with some dogs and cats – just giving them love. Go to an animal sanctuary and volunteer your time. Start a charity online. Instead of making this holiday about killing animals, make it about loving animals and using your position of power to make the world a better place for those animals, as well.
4. Do something nice for yourself – that doesn’t involve spending money.
Once again, notice I said “do something nice” not “buy something nice.” And I don’t mean buying a service either – no spending the day at the spa or getting a manicure. You shouldn’t have to send any money at all to do something nice for yourself. Wake up half an hour early and drink some tea alone on your porch. Cancel all your plans one afternoon and drive to the beach. Whatever it takes – nurture yourself so you can nurture the world.
5. Do something nice for humanity.
Leave something for the greater good. Write an article about something you’re passionate about. Convince another person to spend their Thanksgiving differently. Spend some time thinking about how you can make a positive, sustainable impact.
Because it’s your world – but it’s not just your world. My personal motto has always been to try to leave things – and people and situations and the environment – better than I found them. It doesn’t always go that way, but I try really hard to make it so.
This Thanksgiving, celebrate the holiday by celebrating your place in the world – a place by which you can help make it better for everyone.