An Open Letter to Thanksgiving

Dear Thanksgiving,

I hear many complaints on your behalf about this time every year from people who are upset that Christmas is stomping on you, causing you to be overlooked. While I agree that this is unfortunate, I have to wonder if some of it isn’t your own fault. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but hear me out.

You have to admit that as holidays go, you’re not the flashiest, funnest one of the bunch. We don’t get to give presents, dress up as zombies, or blow shit up because of you. What we get to do is make an enormous meal, which for some people is not within their comfort zone, or even their abilities. I don’t think your problems are anything a good PR person couldn’t fix. While I am not a PR person, I can offer a few suggestions to get you started. There are a couple of things where the train has already left the station, but not everything is irreparable.

Your icons are, let’s face it, a little dull. Whereas with other holidays we get a cute bunny who brings jelly beans and Cadbury Crème Eggs (bless that little rodent), or a man who performs a seemingly impossible feat on an annual basis, your spokespeople are Pilgrims. The Pilgrims may have been a fine group, without whom many of us would still be attending Anglican Eucharist every Sunday, but they’re not really much of anyone’s idea of a good time. You might consider seeking some new talent. Someone with broad appeal who just screams, “I’m a good time!” I’d recommend someone like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, but I think they’re under contract to other companies. But that’s the general idea.

Decorations for you share a lot of crossover with autumn in general, and run to colored leaves and gourds. There’s no bling, no twinkle. When you can obtain suitable adornment for an occasion by opening the back door and picking some shit up off the ground, you’re not really trying very hard. Maybe take a lesson from some of the bigger name holidays—find a central icon. Christmas has its tree, Easter its basket. I know you have that horn of plenty, but can we be honest? Lame.  And it’s not like on Thanksgiving morning I wake up and that thing has been in any way transformed. It has the same orange and brown leaves, and strangely warty gourds that were there the night before. There needs to be some anticipation to bring on that rush of excitement.

Food is your strength, and you want to play that for all it’s worth. However, I need to point out that turkey wasn’t your best call for a primary protein. Turkey is chicken’s ugly girlfriend. I hate to say that, but it’s true. It’s such a big bird that it’s a really hard thing to get right, and most people don’t do a very good job. If you want to be popular, you can’t make people suffer through a meal of what has the very real potential to taste like gravy-covered rope and sawdust when prepared by the wrong hands. The fact that people have to try to find ways to disguise leftover turkey should have been a red flag. I think the damage is done here, but if you can shift focus to some of the more widely admired side dishes, it's not a total loss. I’d work on promoting the stuffing and mashed potatoes—almost everyone loves a carb.

Also, that moving-the-date-around thing was not a good choice. Again, not something I think we can remedy at this point in time, but you have to admit, your lack of predictability is an issue. Easter pulled it off, but it took chocolate to make it fly. With you we have a moving target of a date, and turkey. You feel me here.

Part of your problem is that you’re not the squeaky wheel. Christmas has so many moving parts—the food, the gifts, the decorations. You’re always the same. Once we’ve decided on who’s hosting you in a given year, we’re pretty much done. There’s not much left to ponder and plan. We set the menu by rote, generally having the same things we had last year and the year before. We might mix it up and use pancetta in the Brussels sprouts instead of bacon, but really, there’s not that much to differentiate last year’s meal from this year’s.

I suggest you change your angle. Instead of trying to be a big fish in a big pond, be a big fish in a small pond. As someone who starts their Christmas planning in July (hey, you’re a holiday represented by dour fun-hating Puritans and a bird that’s been documented as being not only too stupid to come in out of the rain, but one that will look up at falling rain with its mouth open and drown, so don’t you judge me), I do actually look forward to Thanksgiving as a break in that. Before Thanksgiving I make my decorating plans, decide which cookies to make and create lists of ingredients I’ll need to buy, decide who’s getting what as gifts. I don’t take any action, but the planning is a significant effort.

Then you show up in late November, and I take a break for a day. For a day I spend time with my kids (when they’re not playing fucking Minecraft because it’s not a school day, so they get to do that), I relax by making some rolls (my usual contribution to our holiday meal), I look around the house and see what will need to be done to get ready for Christmas, but I don’t need to actually do it. I start drinking Prosecco right after lunch if I feel like it (it’s a holiday thing).

Sell yourself as a pause, an intermission, a clean delineator between the planning and the execution around Christmas. I’m sure plenty of people wait until the Friday after Thanksgiving to start thinking about Christmas, but I wonder how often that delay is fueled by guilt because everyone says Christmas “starts too early” these days. Wouldn’t you be something of a hero if you said, “Hey, you know what? It’s totally OK to start thinking of my buddy Christmas as early as you want—you know, plan and whatnot so you’re not all stressed the day after me. Just look at me as a pleasant day off before the insanity of Christmas or Hanukah comes around. You don’t even have to think very hard about what to serve to your family to eat. I’m a gimme of a holiday.”

I think this strategy could work for you. Why not give it some thought.




DRE said...

Thanksgiving, "Hey, it beats working!"

How's that for a motto? I guess it doesn't really work for police officers or 7-11 people who do have to work, but fuck those people. I think fireworks on Thanksgiving is pretty cool idea. I mean the bloopers of people setting their homes on fire while trying to deep fry a turkey are always pretty entertaining, but fireworks would really add to the fun. Or do you think that's copying too much? I like your ideas. You should totally talk to the Thanksgiving people about this.

Unknown said...

"When you can obtain suitable adornment for an occasion by opening the back door and picking some shit up off the ground, you’re not really trying very hard."
I am having a mad love affair with your writing lately - can you tell?

Tracy said...

DRE - I think you're on to something. Thanksgiving: It Beats Working, and if You're Lucky, You Might Get Friday Off Too!

Brooke - Thank you!! That's a very big compliment given some of the awesome I've read on your site!

Sarah (est. 1975) said...

As the person who cooks the big meal, I would like to add that "having to spend 6 hours on a huge meal that takes people 15 minutes to eat and that they don't help clean up after" doesn't really add to your list of "Pros."

Tracy said...

Good point, Sarah! Maybe I'll make the same plea next year and add that point. Because this shit never ends, of course...