The Bad: By Tsega Yohanes
Thanksgiving is a day to eat food with the people you love that usually can’t cook, so they come and raid your house instead. To be honest, Thanksgiving shouldn’t even be a holiday; it glosses over the abuse, murder, and dislocation of millions of Native Americans. Maybe that’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving; to feel what the Natives felt getting booted out of their own home. The second these people enter your home it's not even your house anymore.
I feel it every year for three days. Cooking and cleaning for people who you hope appreciate all of the trouble you’ve gone through for them. But no, they don’t care at all. They’re much too fixed on something else. Everyone has that one aunt who comes into your home just to make sure you haven’t gained any extra weight, when she in fact is the one who needs to lose weight. The second the little cousins come in, they fill the house with the awful smell of Cheez-Its and wet wipes. Your ears are overwhelmed with the sound of tears of anger and frustration, Cocomelon, arguing, that one kid that chews so loud just because, and the screeching of forks and knives on plates.
However, you know what I can't hear no matter how hard I strain my ears? A simple thank you. You know what I can hear? “The turkey is too dry!” “Did this cranberry come out of a can? Canned cranberry is really unhealthy for my non-fat, gluten free, dairy-free, vegan, keto diet.” I kid you not, someone has asked me why I make my bread so crusty.
The stress doesn’t end while your family is still at your house, trashing it and inviting rodents to live with you, it gets worse. The aftermath of thanksgiving is wonderful! You think that everything will be fine once everyone leaves. But nothing is fine once you remember that you still have to clean. This is when you’ll scan the room and see the couch pillows everywhere, the sink stacked with plates to the brim, paper plates and miscellaneous food scraps flooding the trash can, the bed unmade from the cousin that’s always tired, and the floor coated with crumbs.
On top of that, your pockets have moths coming out of them because you have spent tons of money on food that no one even bothered to eat! So you’ll be eating Thanksgiving leftovers until June! According to Marketwatch, millions of Americans throw away $165 billion in uneaten foods, and about $293 million of waste accumulates during Thanksgiving just from turkey alone!
Most of the time, you don’t want to eat Thanksgiving leftovers until June, so you’ll do what most Americans do each year; throw it into a bowl and hope it stays out of sight and out of mind. According to Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more garbage on Thanksgiving than they do on New Years!
So, wouldn’t you like to save your well being, your wallet, your time, and your planet, and spend time with your family any other way than this absolutely horrible, awful, no-good holiday? I bet the answer is yes!
The Good: By Mrs. Kahawai
Scarves, boots, pumpkin spice lattes, darker evenings, cooler weather...the arrival of fall always puts me in the mood for the Thanksgiving holiday. For teachers and students alike, this day of feasting and relaxation is happily welcomed after the early push of first semester. We can all celebrate the fact that we have made it through the longer months of September and October and are rewarded with five blissful days away from the pressures of work and school.
As for the holiday itself, every family has their own traditions for the feast day. For my family, it is a well known and celebrated custom to meet at noon prior to dinner and play an epic football game. This game includes every family member and guest, from 3 year olds all the way to great grandparents. We elect a “captain” for both sides, and often the “plays” are questionable (one time my cousin’s team formed a human circle around my daughter, who had the ball, and physically pushed through the opposition for the touchdown). It doesn’t matter who wins. I am not even sure we keep score. What matters is that each year we celebrate the opportunity to gather and the good fortune of being able to move, run, laugh, and play. These traditions are shared with our children and young friends and relatives, and it is easy to imagine that they will continue well into the future, when I will watch my own grandchildren participate.
Afterwards we head inside for dinner. Yes, there is much to prepare if you are the host. Many will spend hours cooking and then have to face dishes after. This, however, is all part of the ritual of gathering. We can relish the smell of baking pies and the warmth of the family kitchen, humming with celebratory energy. We can bask in the delight of our guests as each part of the meal is laid before them. And, most importantly, we can feel immensely grateful. Grateful for food to be able to cook, for dishes to be able to wash, and for the people we are lucky enough to call to our table.
If the pandemic taught me anything, it was the value of this simple pleasure: being together with those that I love. When it was taken from us, I ached for it. I missed my people. My mother’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. She loved bringing her kids and, eventually, their husbands and children, around her table and nourishing their bodies and souls with sustenance both physical and emotional. Sometimes her dishes were not very good (one year there was a particularly terrible carrot casserole that we still make fun of to this day), but we never cared. Everyone remembers those Thanksgivings at my mother’s house with joy and nostalgia. When I lost her to cancer four years ago, I came to appreciate the holiday even more. We do not have endless meals or endless chances to gather. Once you have lost someone special, future gatherings take on a new importance. Whether we have perfectly cooked turkey and creamy mashed potatoes, or if we order a box of pizza or takeout Chinese food...it is the people AROUND the table, and not the food upon it, that should call us to feel gratitude.
Maybe your family joins hands and says what they are thankful for. Maybe you eat “buffet” style and watch football on TV. Perhaps you travel, or maybe you stay home. Your Thanksgiving might be a collection of a huge number of loud relatives, or maybe includes only your immediate family. Whatever it looks like, there is much to be thankful for. In a sometimes chaotic world, the opportunity to slow down and be called to remember our blessings is a welcome one.
I will end with this short poem by Mandy Cidlik, as it captures the unique nature of Thanksgiving as compared to other holidays:
No ghosts or goblins and trick-or-treats,
No candy or flowers for your sweets.
No gifts to buy or presents to give,
Just be THANKFUL for the life that you live.
Happy Thanksgiving, Mesa Nation. I am grateful for you, and for the life you allow me to live.