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Sideburns and Thanksgiving


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Published on: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By Brian J. Karem

According to media reports Thanksgiving is dead.

Killed by Christmas and crass commercialism we are told most of us are going to abandon the family Thanksgiving dinner to go shopping this year.

Perhaps it is because Christmas now begins in August, but whatever the reason we’re apparently done with Thanksgiving.

While you can have the cranberry sauce, I do not come here to bury Thanksgiving but to praise it.

The roots of a day of thanksgiving are deep and traced to harvest rituals and other similar celebrations in late autumn tied to various religions. In the United States we tie it up with a bow and proclaim it a holiday celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans upon the completion of a successful harvest and apparently before the European hordes began slaughtering the natives.

President George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and President Lincolnd set it as the last Thursday in November. President Roosevelt set the day in stone so we all celebrate it on the fourth Thursday in November.

In our family it has always been the easiest holiday to celebrate. My father, with his long sideburns and perpetual smile would carve up the ceremonial bird while mom would bake pies. Our extended family would gather, we’d eat, imbibe, watch a good football game, burp and unhitch the pants while we relaxed.

In our decidedly dysfunctional family it was the closest thing to a “Leave it to Beaver” moment we ever experienced.

I cherished it. I loved it. I do so now.

For Thanksgiving is the easiest holiday to enjoy. You’re not expected to give presents. You don’t have to dress in red or green or worry about making sure you’re naughty or nice.

There are no special songs to sing. You don’t have to play with a top made out of clay. You don’t have to worry about “re-gifting” or if you’ve given the right present to the right person.

You don’t have to go into bankruptcy to make sure everyone is happy and no one expects you to decorate the house in lights, candles, dead trees and wrapping paper.

It’s a no-nonsense day of relaxation.

I don’t know how Christmas ever overcame this decidedly simple holiday and I’m not a fan of what has happened to the Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza/ holiday season.

It’s not a celebration. It’s not a holiday.

We have forgotten what that holiday is all about as it’s become about everything and it goes on and on and never ends.

It’s the fat, smelly grandmother of holidays. Oh sure, Christmas used to be something to celebrate when it was about the birth of Jesus – even if the time of the celebration was in question – I mean after all you don’t tend your flocks in the dead of winter – but that’s another story.

The simple narrative upon which Christmas is based is indeed a great cause for celebration.

Fat old bearded men in red suits, flying reindeer, little drummer boys, possessed snowmen and endless gift-giving in order to turn a year’s profit have nothing to do with that simplest of holidays.

If Christmas retained its original luster, dropped the dead trees, the bad songs, and the guilt trips I might go back to enjoying that single day once again.

That’s right. I’m Linus explaining it to Charlie Brown. But I’m still not signing up for Christmas.

I’m signing up for Thanksgiving.

It’s the underdog of holidays and I like underdogs.

It’s the little holiday that could.

And I remember some of the most joyous times of my childhood coupled with great food and company on that day. Long live Thanksgiving.

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