What’s Going On: An American tragedy: The forgotten holiday

It’s the most American of all holidays.

And yet … it’s the most ignored.

We celebrate our fair share of holidays, including several “official” ones where most (some) get the day off work. Christmas, New Years, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day immediately come to mind. Then there’s the “bank” holidays a few of us get to stay home for, including Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Columbus Day. And then there’s just the fun, unofficial holidays like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the most recent, Halloween, that just give us an excuse to have a good time.

But there’s one holiday that’s fast approaching that gets overlooked more and more with each passing year: Thanksgiving.

I know I sound like an old man and a scrooge, but I can’t stand the trend to go straight from Halloween decorations into Christmas regalia. Isn’t six weeks of ho-ho-ho, blinking lights and merry carols enough? Apparently not.

I maintain part of the problem with Thanksgiving and why it is so easily overlooked is it doesn’t have a spokesperson.

Christmas has Santa. Easter has the Bunny. Valentine’s has Cupid, Independence Day has Uncle Sam, St. Patrick’s Day boasts the leprechaun, and Halloween has, well, I guess the devil. Even New Year’s has father time and the fat, smiling baby.

Thanksgiving though? Squadoosh. Nothing. John Smith maybe? Squanto? How many Americans though do you think have ever heard of either of those two originators of what I believe is one of the greatest holidays on the calendar.

And I mean that. It’s a wonderful holiday. First, it has the best food by far. Sure, I enjoy good corned beef and cabbage or a barbecue, but I’ll take any day of the week oven roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, deviled eggs and enough pies to put me into a diabetic coma.

Then after stuffing my face, I get to spend the rest of the day watching football and napping. Tell me again how you are going to make this day any better?

No pressure about buying presents, no guilty feelings realizing someone had to die for me to enjoy the day off, and did I mention the great food, naps and football?

Plus, as I stated, this is really the most American of all holidays. In fact, it’s uniquely American as no other country really has Thanksgiving. (Editor’s note: Canada celebrates its own Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, but in some parts of the country it’s an optional holiday, and they have to watch Canadian football after dinner.)

You can celebrate all the Christian holidays in every country in the world, and most have Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s and Halloween. Most countries also have some version of Independence Day, Memorial Day, and even President’s Day, even if it’s called something different. That only leaves Martin Luther King, Columbus and Labor Day, and while I won’t debate their merits, no one really looks forward to them like they do Thanksgiving.

It’s also important to note that Thanksgiving is not only a unique holiday to America, but our oldest, predating the country itself.

The first feast lasted three days and occurred in 1621, featuring the 50 surviving passengers from the Mayflower and 100 Native American friends. Appropriately, four women are credited with doing all the cooking while the men sat around and likely napped.

I’m not going to get political here, but there’s a lot of discussion in our society today about nationalism, patriotism, and to borrow a phrase, “Making America Great Again.”

You really want to be a patriot? Well then grab a turkey leg, a slice of pumpkin pie and the remote control and settle into your favorite recliner for an afternoon of football. You truly love America? Leave the Christmas tree down for a few more weeks and go take a nap.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.