Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thoughts On Thanksgiving

I start by admitting that I am not a fan of the Thanksgiving holiday. When I worked in domestic violence, it was one of the two busiest days of the year for men beating up women (the other was the Super Bowl). We always had a full house at the shelter and all lines lit up on the hotline. It is a day of gross consumption: a few people (generally again women) work very hard for many hours making a meal, and everyone, including the cooks, spend 30 minutes eating it and two hours recovering from it. Then a few people spend several hours cleaning up. Families often come together on Thanksgiving, which should be good, but people who love their families probably see them as frequently as time and money allow, and those who only see their families on Thanksgiving are often not in the “love my family” category. People have too much to drink, causing old resentments to be aired and new ones to be formed. However, one could hardly expect a holiday with such dubious (some would say imperialist and genocidal) origins to be other than what it is.

But Thanksgiving has its upsides: leftovers! And an automatic four day weekend as Thanksgiving cannot be moved to Monday.

Even though I don’t like Thanksgiving, I am a fan of holidays in general and I wish there were way more of them. They provide good practice for not working, particularly for Americans who are chronically overworked. When a society has only a few holidays, each holiday has to multi-task: get the family together, eat well, have fun, get some rest, and get caught up on all kinds of tasks that we don’t have time to do during the normal work week. It is no wonder that few holidays are really fun—they are layered with a to-do list that makes going back to work something to look forward to.

In the Middle Ages, people had about eight weeks worth of holidays in addition to Sunday. Peasant life was hard and life in general was short, (the average lifespan was 30 years), but pleasure was a value for all classes of people. In fact, Christmas, which we have narrowed down to one day, was 12 days long.

A commons society has a lot of holidays, far more than the eleven Federal holidays we observe in the USA, (many of which are not given to people who work in the private sector.) We have built into our Constitution the basis for a commons society: “the right to….the pursuit of happiness.” If we made happiness our highest value, how would we structure our society? Perhaps sometime over this weekend, between turkey and pie, phone calls to distant friends and watching the Macy’s Day parade, we should think about that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i love this! some might view it as curmudgeonly, but it is just true to say many women get the stressful, short end of the stick when it comes to thanksgiving. it is also good to be reminded of the importance of working less. love it. thank you for your wisdom.