Stateside With Rosalea - F-words

Published: Fri 25 Nov 2005 03:31 PM
Stateside With Rosalea - F-words
By Rosalea Barker
It's that time of year when every e-card, cooking show, magazine and newspaper article tells us that Thanksgiving is about the three f's: family, friends and food. For those of us who have fraught--if not downright failed--relationships with all three, there is always the other f: four-day weekend. That is, if we're not working in a job that means we don't get weekends anyway.
That opening paragraph's got a few too many f's and if's for my liking, but what the heck. Let's go with the flow. Something it's a little hard to do if you weren't brought up in the US, learning that: "In 1621, a few hundred Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The feast lasted three days, and included fowl, venison, fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, and plums. There was no pumpkin pie, however. There was also an alarming lack of user-friendly webmail services."
Yes, I can't even retrieve my email without getting a lecture about Thanksgiving. It's the most popular American holiday. The least stressful. Sez who? Having to come over all nicey-nice with every relative you own sounds like Supersized stress to me. And then there's the cooking, which I know from the conversations around me at work is about as stress-making as things can be.
And underlying the celebration is the peculiar notion that we all have something to be thankful for. That we have been blessed in some way. Rewarded for our goodness. Which must be a weird concept for the millions of Americans who come from cultures that believe what goes around comes around and thank you has nothing to do with it, because we've each only got ourself to thank for what we ended up with in life.
To eschew the Thanksgiving Day celebration is to feel totally un-American, yet some cultures expect people to forego it in certain circumstances. For instance, if a family member dies and it is the tradition of your culture to mourn for a year and have no celebrations at all--not even birthday parties--then what are you going to do about turkey day?
It's not just the supposed origins of Thanksgiving Day that are mythical; it is a day on which the US renews its pledge to the myth that families are wellsprings of goodness, friends are forever true, and food is plentiful for everyone. And, by heck, if it isn't then that's just the opportunity we need to renew the myth of our Great and Generous nation by donating turkeys to the local soup kitchen.
(You'd be forgiven for thinking this turkey would rather go suck on a cranberry.)

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