Al Rasheed: This week, keep the ‘thanks’ in Thanksgiving

By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

I’m not sure who was in charge of deciding the placement of holidays in the United States, but they clearly didn’t take into account how anticlimactic the current holiday placement would make the first few months of the calendar year. All of the excitement and “seasonal” displays from September through December culminate and then promptly disappear once the New Year rolls around — just in time for the post-season chubbiness and fewer hours of sunshine. Holidays are inherently flawed, in addition to their less-than-desirable placement. Holidays in the United States are contradictory: They are days we have created to remind us of the value of tradition and the beauty of family, which we cover with a thick layer of consumerism. 

But in the midst of the rotten way we choose to define American culture, Thanksgiving stands as one holiday worth appreciating.

Yes, just like almost every other holiday, Thanksgiving is tainted with inconsistencies — it’s sandwiched between the biggest drinking day of the year and a day on which people turn into animals for electronics — but if we remove these layers, we can actually pull some good from it.

Giving thanks is the main reason that I like Thanksgiving, other than the whole “I’m not counting a single calorie today” part, it directs us to a rare act that is otherwise shielded by our tendency to constantly look for upgrades to our happiness. 

A societal search for the next upgrade is the underlying reason for the negative aspects that surround the holiday. The consumerism causes employees to go into work on a holiday and cater to society’s desire for 40 percent off the retail price and a free tote bag. If eliminated, the holiday would receive a lot more credit.

But instead of understanding what it means to be appreciative and give thanks, that is, to squash our normal, selfish tendency to whine about how things could be better, we find ourselves doing the exact opposite. The culture surrounding Thanksgiving poses a huge contradiction to the reason for celebrating it in this first place. 

We’re left in a weird position of undertaking the basic act of giving thanks in lieu of the overarching cultural swampland associated with it. To ignore the holiday would mean to ignore something as selfless as giving thanks, while partaking in Thanksgiving comes with these other inconsistencies. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be a huge contradiction to let the inconsistencies of Thanksgiving take away from the positive aspects of the holiday because this is essentially what giving thanks asks us to do. The best way to approach this day is to look for the good in what it is. It’s a day that allows us to remember family, tradition and the simple pleasure of a good meal.

The table we visit changes each year, whether that is because of the people surrounding it, the ages of those people or the experiences they bring to it. Chances are that there are a few changes that could make the day better (for example, being above the age of twelve and not being forced to sit at the kids table; dinner conversations that for once won’t include how useless a philosophy major is), and on a large scale, it would be immensely better if it didn’t involve societal flaws such as consumerism or mass killing of turkeys. But this year, try to avoid slipping into this habit of thinking of the negative aspects.

Enjoy what you have and help us, as a contradicting, celebratory society, collectively render something good out of this day. Strip the negativity as much as you can and simply appreciate. If you need me, I’ll probably be at the kid’s table.

Write Sophia at [email protected].