I’m not going to lie. When I’m wished a “Happy Turkey Day,” I cringe.
It’s not that I have anything against turkey–I find it to be delicious and consume it regularly throughout the year. And I don’t have anything against Thanksgiving itself. In fact, I love it, which is precisely the reason the moniker “Turkey Day” irritates me.
The problem with saying “Happy Turkey Day” is that it puts the focus on the day’s superficial elements and off the idea of giving thanks.
To my knowledge, I did not attend the First Thanksgiving, but I did attend American public schools, which means I am an expert on the topic (especially tracing my hand to draw a turkey), and from those thirteen years in historical academia, I gathered that the original reason for the celebration was the relationship between the Native Americans and Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims (who chose their name due to their enthusiasm for John Wayne films) left England in search of a better life, one of religious freedom and less tabloids about the Gallagher Brothers. However, when they arrived in America, they continuously failed at living off the land because there was no Starbucks or Wi-Fi anywhere. There were no apps on their iPhones for growing corn or not dying from scurvy. They’d already run out of duct tape while building a cool fort on the Mayflower, and thus had crude shelters unsuitable to withstand El Niño. They were dropping like flies shot by a proficient fly marksman.
However, the Native Americans were there to help, as well as secretly laugh at their pale co-inhabitants’ incompetence. Even though they were less than thrilled about their new neighbors, they embraced the fact that they weren’t going anywhere, and basically saved the Pilgrims from certain extinction.
That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, Charlie Brown.
And so when we gather on whichever Thursday of November that Chuck Norris has decided on, the original idea was to both acknowledge that this country was founded on generous natives saving incompetent hipsters’ asses (even though they knew in the backs of their minds this would come back to bite them) and to honor that staggering charity by thinking about all the things we ourselves have to be thankful for.
Which we should.
But here’s my issue with you, wishers of “Happy Turkey Day.” When I hear “Happy Turkey Day” I visualize myself surrounded by plates of deliciousness, stuffing my face and inducing a tryptophan food coma. All I see in my mind’s eye is the food.
Now, in contrast, when you wish me a “Happy Thanksgiving” I imagine myself surrounded by the people I love. Although I’ve never been a starving stranger in a foreign land, these are people who have saved my ass in profound ways–even when I was acting like a complete buttmunch–and I’m there to celebrate them being in my life. I thank my parents for bringing me into the world, making me the person I’m happy to be, and for still, to this day, supporting me by providing free, high-quality Twincare while I’m nerdifying on campus. I thank my in-laws for treating me as one of their own and being some of the most amazing, inspiring people I’ve ever met. I thank my wife for finding me at a time when I was sinking into an abyss of total lameness, lifting me up, dusting me off, giving my life meaning, personifying the term “soul mate,” and embarking on the extraordinary adventure that is parenting with me. And finally, I thank my children–whether they understand or not–just for being themselves.
Okay, yes, there is still food in the above hallucination, but it’s food we’re sharing–it’s secondary to the greater purpose of giving thanks for the people who matter the most.
Which is why, O Loyal Reader, I urge you this Thursday to have yourself an incredibly Happy Thanksgiving and skip Turkey Day. Although the food tends to be delicious, when you’re sitting around that table, don’t stare at a freaking casserole, waiting to tear it apart. Take a look around the table and give thanks for the people.
That’s why you’re really there.
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If not, Happy Turkey Day!