Last year, I penned a primer for folks outside of the United States on traditional American Thanksgiving traditions. (Recycle your photos friends, it’s good for the Earth) Each year, writers sit down to write guides on winning arguments with your family, avoiding arguments with your family, or just how to ruin Thanksgiving in a few easy steps. While the authors of these little gems are usually from the Left side of the political aisle, a few Right side rebuttals. (In the interest of fairness, the ratio is WAY skewed to the Left on this.) The gist of these articles is usually: “It’s Thanksgiving, or Why We Don’t See Our Family the 364 Days of the Year.”
This is not a new phenomena, time carved the cultural trope of traveling hundreds of mile at great inconvenience to spend time with people you really don’t like into the American psyche like a badly hewn slab of breast meat. It’s not a by-product of the Internet age, I recall my parents grousing over the schlepp to my extended family long before Facebook made screaming at your family over inconsequential issues as easy as clicking a button. The arguments were the same, politics, sports, who was a drunk, who was cheating on their spouse and how no one took care of their damn kids. Here we are gathering to celebrate family and give thanks with people we would never allow into our homes any other day of the year! Or worse, you are forced to spend time with someone you loathe because they or you married into the family
I really wonder if this a uniquely American idea, or if people from Seoul travel down south to Gwangju for Chueseok and argue over Songpyeon with Uncle Kim, who fought in the war, about normalizing relations with the North? It’s absurd, really, how we force ourselves to socialize with people we barely know all because two hundred years ago our ancestors did so out of the relief they brought in enough food to eat through the Winter. Why do we do it? Hell, I can’t even blame Hallmark for this holiday, we do it because…because…I am really not sure why.
I’m not advocating not seeing your family for Thanksgiving, I’m saying maybe scale back the big holiday dinners to the people you actually want to spend time with. Instead of every branch on the family tree, including those everyone wants to prune, invite people you actually LIKE. We don’t need to fill the house with every single person related by blood and law to enjoy a family event! We don’t need to go through the annual ritual of grimly drinking enough wine to tolerate our relatives, we can happily drink enough wine with our friends and family to mock those people behind their back! I am advocating a peace treaty in the Turkey Day Wars! Next Thanksgiving, everyone stay home and enjoy your actual family not the one you endure by technicality!
Today, I am going to sit down to an amazing dinner with people I am not related to, most of whom I don’t even know. We will eat, drink, watch Mitchell and no one will need to argument about politics or sports, or any of the other things families spend Thanksgiving carefully avoiding yet never manage to pull off. The difference is we all WANT to be there, no one is family by fiat. You can do this with your ACTUAL FAMILY! Imagine, good food, good friends, good conversation and you never need worry about offending Uncle Bob, or having Uncle Bob piss in the coat closet because he was so drunk he thought it was the bathroom.
Uncle Bob, by the way, is why the coats are always on the bed on Thanksgiving.