I love Thanksgiving. I always have, and I think it's one of the few holidays I enjoy as much or even more than when I was a kid. As I kid, I always loved watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, and of course, I loved all the food and the time off from school. As I'm older now, I haven't watched the parade in years, lately because I don't have live TV anymore. Also, as an adult, I've probably worked on Thanksgiving as often as I've had the day off. As for the food, well, I do like it, but these days it seems like I have to make a conscious effort to just enjoy food and not worry about whether it's keeping me fat or clogging my heart or speeding me towards diabetes.
So why do I say I love Thanksgiving? I love it because it seems almost immune to all the things that detract from the other holidays.
First of all, Thanksgiving seems almost immune to commercialism. I say almost because people do spend a lot on food for Thanksgiving, and of course, every grocery store takes advantage of that fact for specials and sales, but for the most part those are low key and more like a bonus for shopping with a given merchant, rather than an enticement to buy things you weren't already shopping for. There are displays of decorations for sale, too, but they are usually relegated to a small shelf in the back of the store, vaguely near the Christmas decorations. I have noticed in the last couple of years that the companies who sell Christmas lights have been marketing lights for other holidays. I just saw a yard with several turkeys built out of strings of autumn-colored lights on plastic frames. I doubt those will catch on, though. Only the most die-hard yard exhibitionist is likely to go for those. The rest of us probably welcome a brief respite between taking down the Halloween decorations and putting up the Christmas ones. Additionally, aside from perhaps a host or hostess gift, there's none of the gift-giving pressure some feel at Christmas time.
Also, Thanksgiving is non-denominational. In fact, although it's a time many people thank their respective gods for their "blessings", you don't have to be religious at all to express thankfulness, or at least reflect on your good fortune. Also, unlike "Merry Christmas" these days, you can wish a "Happy Thanksgiving" to just about anyone without fear of offense. Gratitude is universal.
Finally, although most people probably do still spend the holiday with some combination of relatives, Thanksgiving is very accomodating of last minute guests and ad-hoc groups. With the tendency for extended families to become more and more spread out across the country though, it's not always practical to get everyone together for Thanksgiving. I've spent many Thanksgivings overseas, or far from family with little money or vacation time for travel. Perhaps because it's a simpler holiday than say, Christmas, it's easier to celebrate in ad-hoc groups. It's easy for friends who can't (or don't want to) be with relatives to get together and share a meal in celebration. It's usually pretty easy to add a last minute guest or two as well. I've never been to a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't accomodate a few unexpected plates and still have plenty of left-overs. Also, last minute guests usually don't have to worry about intruding on a family gift exchange.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy most holidays, and I'm always up for a chance to celebrate with friends and family. To me, though, the heart the holiday season is spending time with people you love. As much as I enjoy Christmas, it's the simple spirit of Thanksgiving that I grow to appreciate more and more each year.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.