(Welcome to Eight Piece Turkey Box! For the next two weeks, Jonathan will be writing about Thanksgiving, with practical tips, recipes, and (mostly) breathless rants. Enjoy!)
Like most small towns, our city of Hazard holds an annual Christmas parade. The high school band plays its holiday repertoire, a few local civic groups have floats while others set up booths to hand out hot chocolate, and it all leads up to Santa Claus, waving and throwing out candy.
Our house is in an old and pretty neighborhood not far from downtown, and not long after we moved here they started following the Christmas parade with horse-drawn carriage rides up and down our street. We got a letter from the organizers giving us a heads-up about the event, and since they wanted to make the experience as Christmasy as possible they also included a chipper directive to “decorate appropriately for the season!”
The problem? The Christmas parade is held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
When it comes to the boundaries on the holiday season, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who don’t see a single thing wrong with putting a Christmas tree up in their house the first week of November, and normal people. As a hardliner on the issue, often (incorrectly!*) derided as a Scrooge even among the neurotypical, I’ve always thought that the ideal Christmas season would resemble Mardi Gras: two weeks of intense celebration building up to the big day, then one huge blowout that comes to a hard stop at midnight. Would Mardi Gras really be any better if it dragged on for two months?
I’m not one to fight the inevitable, so I have grudgingly accepted the day after Thanksgiving as the beginning of the Christmas season**. But this far and no further. Sprawl if you must, Christmas, but you can’t have Thanksgiving.
Most family holidays involve gathering the loved ones, having a big meal, and taking some time to appreciate each other and what you have. (In theory, at least.) But what makes Thanksgiving so great is that it isn’t about anything else. There are no presents to stress over. The only TV commercials about it are from Kroger. There’s exactly one song about it that no one is compelled to sing after grade school. Decorations are limited to some hand turkeys stuck to the fridge and possibly a snappy centerpiece if one of your aunts got loose on Pinterest. You don’t even have to stress that much about the menu, because Norman Rockwell did us the favor of setting it in stone.
Get together with the people you love, make and enjoy some great food, then maybe play some cards and fall asleep in front of a football game. It’s the purest expression of what a holiday should be that I can imagine. And the thing that makes it even better? It’s one day. Nobody thinks there should be a “Thanksgiving Season”.
The Christmas-Industrial Complex has done it’s best to encroach on Thanksgiving, encouraging us to spend the day carb-loading and strategizing for the shopping spree on Black Friday***. And it makes me happy that the few places trying to extend the retail extravaganza to Thursday have mostly been met with backlash. But we have to stay vigilant, because Thanksgiving deserves way more than just being a stop on the road to something else.
“Decorate appropriately for the season!” they said. Smartassed contrarians to the core, Tamara and I almost simultaneously responded with oh, we’ll decorate appropriately, all right.
And that’s how we found ourselves searching Walmart.com for “inflatable turkey” and placing an order for a 6′ Seated Turkey with Pilgrim Hat. And into the front yard he went, where he became known as Mr. Gobbles. We considered modifications like a claw with an upturned middle finger, or just a big sign that said “HAPPY F***ING THANKSGIVING”, but we were new to the neighborhood and thought it might be frowned upon. I like to think that the folks riding by in their carriages got the point.
The carriage rides moved downtown a long time ago, but Mr. Gobbles remains as a reminder to enjoy the holidays one at a time. When his difficult-to-replace lights started to fail after almost ten years, I suppose we could have retired him, confident that people know where we stand on the issue of Christmas sprawl.
Nah, we just bought another one. And this one included replacement parts that let us fix the old one.
Gobble gobble, y’all.
(Next up: time to get your plan together.)
*I love Christmas. I just get tired of it really quickly. I have ADHD, it’s how we roll.
**I still really like for the decorations to come down on December 26. They’re just always so sad and droopy that week after Christmas, and I’m also a big fan of New Year’s Eve and hate to see it eaten by the Christmas sprawl.
***My dear friend Lora Smith has suggested that the Friday after Thanksgiving should instead become National Pie for Breakfast Day. That’s some holiday sprawl I can get behind. Definitely sounds better than dragging one’s ass out of bed at 2AM and shivving a few people to save $25 on an off-brand cordless drill.