Thanksgiving has come and gone, a day of national feasting and football (many holidays seem to have a lot to do with football), and also thankfulness, if you're feeling particularly thankful. Maybe you're not, in which case you've still got the feasting and the football. Maybe be thankful for that?
American myth and lore tells us that the First Thanksgiving was a celebration between "The Pilgrims" (better described as Calvinist Seperatists) and the indigenous tribe said Pilgrims relied upon for their very survival. The Pilgrims had a lot to be thankful for: mainly their lives, but also little things like corn, turkey, and cranberry sauce. As for the Indians, the implication seems to be that they were thankful to have some new friends who could improve their land and teach their religion. Or something. Anyway, for the good of Kindergartners everywhere, we make paper turkeys and try not to talk to much about what happened after that first Thanksgiving, because it gets a little grisly.
Much is made of the traditional Thanksgiving feast and its reinforcement of the notion that Americans are fat gluttons, but this observation is not very fair. Americans, after all, did not invent over-eating, particularly as a way of celebrating cultural and/or religious identity. We merely perfected it, and we did it by smothering everything with delicious, delicious gravy. There is no shame in sharing an over-sized meal with family you hardly ever see. It's very, very odd, but not shameful in the least.
In any event, Thanksgiving actually helps to soften one of our most distasteful cultural traits; the shameless consumerism that accompanies the coming of Christmas. Producers of consumer goods and other crap are always trying to move the start of the season up by playing Christmas-themed advertisements and music, but the presence of another major holiday in late November helps to keep a lid on it. Of course, once the meal is over, the lid comes off, and the family gathers their tents, sleeping bags, and machetes, and camps out in front of the nearest Toys R Us to try and take advantage of a 20% sale on God-knows-what.
Black Friday is, of course, every bit as evil and soul-crushing as it sounds. Its corrosive influence is so strong, it is actually trying to kill Thanksgiving, and this is unforgivable. Even my day calendar had a Black Friday reminder inserted between Thursday and Friday, advising me to go out and buy more day calendars. Christmas, you have four weeks to dominate American culture. You don't need more.
So before we plunge headlong into December, let us reflect on Thanksgiving, and be thankful that it comes just when we need it most.