Thanksgiving is something that is only celebrated in the United States (or in Canada, though you Canucks do it on the wrong day, you weirdos!).
People in the rest of the world might be aware of Thanksgiving because it’s a big deal in the US and because the US has a lot of influence on the rest of the world via pop-culture (movies and TV, mainly). But though there might be a few Brits having turkey dinners on Thursday this week due to the influence of some American friends or family, it’s basically an America-only holiday.
I know some Leftists who use Thanksgiving as an excuse to rail against White oppression of Native Americans via Facebook. I don’t say anything to them about it (don’t they already have Columbus Day as their official grievance day?). And there are some vegetarians who use it as an excuse to rail against the eating of poor, innocent birds.
But Thanksgiving has remained largely free of the politicization that surrounds Christmas. For the most part, Thanksgiving has remained Leftism-free in the US. We have other official holidays that grant a day off work, like Labor Day, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, and Martin Luther King Day, but no one takes these very seriously. Among religious holidays, Easter is still a big deal, but you don’t get a day off from work for Easter. Halloween is a big deal culturally, but again, no time off work.
The Fourth of July is great fun, culturally, and you get a day off work. In a sense it’s the mirror-image of Thanksgiving. Not explicitly religious, universally recognized among Americans.
Christmas is the last standing religious holiday that is explicitly Christian and which still involves official time off work. I expect to see a movement to remove official status from Christmas within my lifetime, and I won’t be surprised if it works. (I also won’t be surprised if it provokes a massive backlash the fear of which, I suspect, is the only reason such a movement hasn’t begun already.)
Every other holiday in the US is minor at most. But Thanksgiving I love because it is a ritual embedded in time, like amber. The reasons to give thanks are ultimately religious. If there’s no Deity that provided things, then there’s no reason to give thanks. One can feel lucky, but one can’t feel grateful, if one doesn’t believe in a Higher Order. But since Thanksgiving has been cleanly separated from religious tradition in the popular mind, Leftists haven’t been able to attack it on the grounds of being too Christian.
Thanksgiving is stealth traditionalism. The main idea — and it’s still practiced this way among the vast majority of Americans — is to gather around the table with loved ones, to acknowledge the blessings of this life, and to eat and be merry. People play board games together, not because board games are that fascinating, but because it’s an excuse to laugh and love and be close to your family. The overeating that some people decry is actually a beautiful thing. People aren’t (for once!) overeating at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut, they are overeating delicious, traditional recipes that took all day long to prepare. It’s a feast. Even the Elves in Tolkien knew that the occasional feast was a glorious thing. It’s not gluttony, it’s celebration. McDonald’s is gluttony.
The foundations of Thanksgiving are shaking, just like with everything else that is good and glorious in our modern world. David Sedaris writes scathing, sarcastic accounts of Thanksgivings gone bad, and his books sell in the millions. The day after Thanksgiving is a nation-wide orgy of acquisitiveness. Etc. Nothing in our modern age is untouched.
Still, Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, a tiny remnant of the old life. Even the word we use — Thanksgiving — is archaic and beautiful. To simply gather around the table with family and friends for no other reason but to eat and give thanks: it’s almost astonishing that we still do it. So in the tradition of giving thanks for the good things in life on Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for Thanksgiving.