Thanksgiving is a huge feast at our house - all the kids who can make it back, former students, friends who have no family (and as we age, that number increases), cousins, siblings, spouses, offspring of various people, neighbors...
It's not exactly a family reunion because there are lots of people not related by blood or marriage in the mix, but it is a family reunion of the heart, for we are all united in friendship and caring for one another.
Thanksgiving is the holiday where we can best and easiest make arrangements to get together, and so we do.
I know there are people who lambast Thanksgiving as a travesty of a holiday, a smear on the Native Americans, and a farce, and some even advocate that it should be abolished.
I don't think any holiday should ever be abolished. Repurposing it sounds like a much better idea. Holidays have been pre-empted and re-purposed for centuries, it's kind of a human thing to do. We borrow holiday traditions, and make up new holidays, and find reasons to celebrate. Sometimes, the original reason gets lost in the mists of time, and sometimes, we deliberately bury the origins because it's the community bonding that matters more than why we started holding the celebration. So what if Christ wasn't really born on Christmas Day? It's still a great time to have a holiday celebration - and no one has to celebrate it the way others do or even celebrate it at all, they can call it by any of the many other winter holidays, including the made up ones like Winterfair and Festivus. So what if Halloween is no longer celebrated as All Hallow's Eve? So what if Mardi Gras is now a huge excuse for costumes, parties, beads, and drunken revelry?
So, my family and friends repurposed Thanksgiving (and we all make it a 4 day weekend, even those of us who normally would work on Friday) into a Feast of Friends. It's all our birthdays, anniversaries, and other rites-of-passage moments that we had throughout the year and missed celebrating because of time or distance, celebrated in feast and talanoa, in good deeds and happy thoughts.
It is also the pre-cursor to Cookie Day, the most sacred day in Numenism.
We print photos of all our special moments throughout the year and place them on a long table with artifacts, samples, art, and other examples of the things we've done the past year, and we spend the weekend, when we are sitting down and eating, talking about those accomplishments, and the goals we hope to meet the coming year.
We eat a lot during these four days - always cooking and baking. Thursday and Friday are devoted to the past, the things we did. It's a catching up time. We'll watch home movies and videos, look at pictures, admire arts and crafts and grade reports and more. We bring out the book from last year and go over the dreams and goals we'd talked about doing this past year and checking to see how many of those mile-posts we actually made.
We celebrate meeting the goals we'd set, and we commiserate for the ones we didn't manage to do. Sometimes it was just that we'd been too ambitious, and sometimes, life had a way of inserting itself and changing our course. Accidents, illnesses, and employers were the biggest reasons we didn't do all we'd hoped to do.
Saturday and Sunday, we bake and freeze cookies for Cookie Day while coming up with new dishes for the left overs and eating them. We talk about our dreams and aspirations, and how we expect to accomplish them. We write them down in the book for next year.
And we'd eat. A lot.
This year, far too many of our number are still deployed in Afghanistan, so we'll set up places for them and put their pictures in the chairs. If we can arrange it, we'll have a Skype/Video conference during Friday's meal (our main holiday meal, as we spend Thursday prepping for Friday).
Several have died as well and we'll be remembering them Thursday and Friday. We have a jar filled with the names of all who have died, and we'll add their names to that jar.
Holidays are what you make of them.
We've chosen to make the days we have off for Thanksgiving into a Feast of Friends. Just as we've chosen to eschew the Catholic roots of St. Patrick's Day and embrace the pride of the Irish immigrants who made a place for themselves in America, and we've chosen to eschew the Catholic and British roots of Halloween and embrace the sheer frivolity and candy-ness of it.
And we've created a slew of holidays only we celebrate - Cookie Day is of course the most important one, but there's First 'Mater Day (the day the first tomato ripens enough to pluck and devour it), First Fire Day, First Flower Day (we like Firsts), and a few others.
Yep. Holidays are what you make of them, old or new.