(Note: If you feel like you've read this before, you did. Last year. I cleaned some things up and moved some stuff around, but the post itself is mostly unchanged.)
While it hasn't always been the case, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; nothing else even comes close. How can you top a day full of football, family, friends and food? You can't. Other holidays have their perks but none are as close to perfect as Thanksgiving.
Fourth of July comes the closest and, like Thanksgiving, it's a holiday that I appreciate more now as an adult. So you're telling me I get a day off to drink outside and grill with friends and family? What's that? And we get to blow stuff up? Awesome. Fourth of July is great, but not better than Thanksgiving (I mean, how many cookouts do you go to over the summer? At least a few).
New Years Eve? When is the last time that a New Years Eve went the way you wanted it to go? Anyone? Maybe it's just me, I dunno.
Halloween? Don't get me wrong, Halloween kicks ass from ages 1-14 (trick or treating) and then from 18-26 (college girls). I like Halloween and all but at this point, I feel a bit goofy dressing up (there's only so many costumes that go with a full beard/mutton chops) and I can only get drunk in an uncomfortable costume so many times. It's not like Halloween is bad but better than Thanksgiving? No..
Finally, there's the big one: Christmas. Like Halloween, Christmas was awesome as a little kid (presents!!) but I've grown away from it as I've gotten older. There's just too much going on with Christmas; there's the pressure of buying the right gifts, dealing with the insanity of shopping, let alone the religious aspect that barely receives a passing mention. Hell, I'm not even religious and this offends me.
Simply put: there's just too much Christmas. It's gotten too big. It's a month long orgy of shopping malls, lame television specials, sugary treats and greed (with only a token nod to the Baby Jesus). Hell, with Black Friday, we're now letting Christmas attempt to ruin Thanksgiving weekend.
(Short aside: back in Christmas of 2004, I worked at the Barnes and Noble in Easton Town Center. At the time, I was getting emails calling me UnAmerican (I had a column in The Lantern, Ohio State's paper, and wasn't a fan of one George W. Bush) and the American news media still reported on the war in Iraq. Now, if you've never been to Easton, it's fairly ritzy shopping plaza and I can't even begin to tell you how elaborate the decorations were inside the actual mall. I swear to God, there entire place was drowned in silver and gold (ed. note: hyperbole) and meanwhile, I'm reading stories from Iraq like this. America: where there's enough money for two-story Santa villages made out of high-end German chocolate but not enough to properly armor the vehicles of our troops. Priorities).
But despite our best efforts, Thanksgiving is still somewhat pure. Yes, radio stations are now playing Christmas music the day after Halloween and Black Friday is threatening to spiral out of control but you can ignore it if you choose. Despite everything, the essence of Thanksgiving is still there. Thanks-giving. A day to give thanks.
It's so simple but yet so beautiful. A (uniquely American) day to reflect on all the things you're grateful for. How great is that? A day not to look at the negatives in life but to accentuate the positives. Be thankful for your friends and your family, your job and your health.
It's far and away my favorite day of the year.
Every Thanksgiving day since 1999, I've played in a pickup football game dubbed (very originally) Turkey Bowl with various friends from High School and a random assortment of their cousins, in-laws or friends-of-friends.
Is it cold and wet? Of course (it's Ohio in November). Are we all hung over and/or horribly out of shape? Yup. Do I hurt for 5 days after? Yes. Is it worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.
This is the one time a year I see a lot of these guy. Some are home from college while others are simply back in town for a weekend before going back to Real Life. The games are somewhat competitive and there's usually at least one or two dumb/awesome laterals thrown in there for good fun. It's a couple hours of trash talk, laughing and hitting amongst old friends. What's not to love?
After I crawl home from football, there's the Thanksgiving meal with my extended family. Turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce... Yes yes and yes. Seriously, sitting down for a giant meal with family members I rarely get to see is not a bad way to refuel after a couple hours cold-weather football. Plus after dinner, I can fall asleep on the couch watching even more (mediocre) football. Huzzah!
As you can tell, I adore Thanksgiving. Easily the day I look forward to the most each year. Too often we focus on what we don't have rather than what we do. Thanksgiving is a day set aside to correct this oversight. I'm thankful for my loving parents, my brother and sister and our extended family. I'm grateful for my pets and for all of my friends as well as my co-workers.
I'm also quite grateful to those of you reading this right now. I'm definitely not a big blog (or, heh, your most reliable blogger) but I know more than a few of you keep coming back. I'm still very much blown away that people who I've never met visit this place (or give me a forum) to read my incoherent ramblings on the Cavaliers and Cleveland sports.
I hope everyone has a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving.
Ray Davies (of the Kinks) - Thanksgiving Day