As I departed from this dearly beloved campus last week, I heard much about inclement weather affecting Thanksgiving traveling plans across the country, especially in New England and along the East Coast. One reporter, commenting on the ruined plans of many, likened missing Thanksgiving Day to missing a graduation or a christening.
This made me ponder. It's really just a day, isn't it? It's not like a graduation or a christening. If you're late to one of those, you've actually missed a significant life event of a loved one. If you're late to Thanksgiving, well, go on and make yourself a turkey sandwich; and, yes, they've already broken the wishbone.
For many, Thanksgiving was the first time in months that they had seen siblings, parents, cousins or grandparents. I don't think a shift of the calendar date of one's arrival makes this reunion less significant.
Why do we have Thanksgiving? In truth, it's an ordinary day. The majority of the United States' population doesn't gather to express thanks for the year's bountiful harvest anymore. Yet, we have designated this day to convene with previously estranged family members for the purpose of consuming mass amounts of factory-farmed poultry and either ignoring or caricaturing the natives from whom this continent was seized.
Of course, Thanksgiving has significance as a day of family unity, and thankfulness in that regard, but what about Christmas? Many tout Thanksgiving as the perfect melting-pot holiday for all Americans because it has no religious affiliation—which according to Time Magazine, is untrue — but the truth is that Christmas is almost just as secularized.
Although Christmas is Christian in origin, it has become hugely commercialized. Even if you aren't Christian, you pretty much have to celebrate Christmas because almost everything will be closed and the holiday will have taken over everything from streetlights to ABC Family.
Additionally, it is only a month after. If we wanted to be practical, we'd have Thanksgiving some time in late June. At the very least, that would prevent it from coinciding with Hanukkah.
Of course, practicality often yields to tradition, and who wants to be practical, anyway? Thanks to Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving has been a nationally celebrated tradition since 1863. But are we really upholding this sacred tradition? The holiday has become more analogous with turkey, shopping and football than with thankfulness.
Black Friday inches closer and closer each year. I'm absolutely positive that in a decade or two we'll be calling it "Pewter Gray Thursday Evening." Everybody was mad when Wal-Mart announced it would open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, but then they hopped in line and fought tooth and nail for Rachael Ray cookware sets.
The family unity aspect of Thanksgiving wears thinner and thinner as more people are called in for work on the fourth Thursday of November.
So, is there a true meaning of Thanksgiving at this point in United States society? Is it a sanctified vestige of good ole American culture? Is it a dress rehearsal for Christmas?
It's sort of sad that for many U.S. residents, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times of the year when they unite with others for the sake of community and family. We shouldn't need a holiday for that. It's worse that one of these holidays romanticizes our dark, bloody, imperialist past with a pretty little pilgrim narrative.
The parade is nice, though.
Andrea Richardson is a sophomore in anthropology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.