Compared to a lot of other countries, America really doesn’t celebrate that many holidays. The Japanese have business holidays at least once a month, it seems. And the British never really seem to be working at all. (Just kidding, Britain! Love ya guys!) But, what few holiday vacations we Americans get, we celebrate them with the time-honored tradition of sitting in traffic for many, many hours.
Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday in the American spectrum. It is one of our oldest established holidays, and it is also one of the few non-religion-specific ones. It harkens back to the days of the colonists, celebrating the cultural exchange between them and the Native Americans. The Native Americans taught the colonists how to better live off the land, and the colonists taught the Native Americans that trusting colonists is a terrible idea.
In modern times, Thanksgiving is the holiday that most Americans spend with their families. As Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, the Wednesday before the holiday is the heaviest travel day of the year. This is because most workplaces only give their employees Thursday and Friday off, which means that everybody has to rush to get to their destinations Wednesday after work.
This also means that traveling on Wednesday is much like accelerating up to about 65 mph, then driving head-on into a concrete barricade. Actually, that’s not quite accurate; the barricade probably moves faster than your average holiday traffic jam.
In more recent years, however, people have grown wise to the fact that travel on Wednesday is terrible, and since work schedules have grown more flexible, they choose to travel on Tuesday to cleverly avoid the traffic. That means they can speedily become embroiled in traffic with the several million other people who cleverly chose to leave a day early to avoid the traffic.
However, Thanksgiving isn’t entirely about traffic: It’s also about eating until your heart stops. The crux of any Thanksgiving is the Thanksgiving Dinner. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, more gravy than should be legally allowed, and pie, pie, pie! Thanksgiving is all about saying good-bye to healthy eating for a day, and punishing your digestive tract in the spirit of the holidays.
This year, I tried to be a little nicer to my body and took smaller portions than usual. This worked out great until the desert course, at which point I was bewitched by the allure of homemade apple pie, which no real American man could ever hope to resist. No Thanksgiving is truly complete until you settle back in a big chair, turn on some football, and unbutton those pants so your bloat can live free.
And yes, you may think that sounds like a pretty well-rounded holiday right there; but it’s still not a full Thanksgiving weekend. Americans must continue to show their thanks by dropping loads of cash at the local mall. “Black Friday,” as it is called, is the day after Thanksgiving; the official start to the Christmas shopping season.
Still reeling from the massive quantities of food their bodies are trying to digest, Americans pile back into their cars and hit the equally bloated shopping centers. If you’ve ever seen those nature films of vultures surrounding a carcass and shoving each other out of the way to get a bite of delicious corpse-meat, then you have a good idea of what the mall situation looks like on Black Friday, but slightly less civilized than the vultures. I have worked in a mall on Black Friday, and its consumer-frenzied horrors will always burn in my mind. I will speak of it no more.
So, as you can see, America may have fewer holidays, but we certainly like to pack a lot into them. Thanksgiving has it all: Traffic, shopping, and eating. And who needs more than that? Oh yeah, and giving thanks for something. That’s in there somewhere.