One might wonder, "why is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday?". Glad you asked. Simply put, it's basically Christmas without the presents and baby Jesus. The former is a stressful annoyance and the latter is an oft-debated hot-button issue.
The only thing I'm going to say about the religion thing is that it's something I realized our family didn't need to enjoy the holiday together. We used to go to Nativity plays and church on Christmas Eve and all that, but eventually we stopped going simply due to lack of interest. I was surprised the first time it happened, but eventually I figured out that, like Santa, it may add a certain flavor to things, but wasn't strictly necessary.
Which brings us to the presents. I don't remember exactly when, but there came a time in my life when I started to have to deal with the reality that you can't be just on the receiving end the rest of your life. One year, my parents gave me a certain amount of money and told me that this year I had to start buying gifts for other people. Don't get me wrong, I was actually pretty excited about it. I finally had the opportunity to make other people feel the way I did when I got something awesome from a person I loved.
However, I soon realized what a daunting task this is. In my young child brain, I learned that I had to factor in the following:
1. Budget- something I never really had to deal with before. How much should I spend on each person? Can I consolidate my brothers or grandparents together?
2. Extended family- it's easy to forget the people that you don't see on a daily basis. That magic household number of 5 becomes 8-10 depending on who's coming to Christmas that year and in the end somebody's going to get jilted because you barely have anything left over.
3. Individualism- everyone has different tastes and this is made more difficult by the fact that, as mentioned above, you don't seen certain family members all that often. The good news, if you're completely lost, you can ask a family member who's a bit closer to them. It also helps to have-
4. Wishlists- this is something I have to keep a running tab on all year because I'm the kind of person whom if you ask what they want on the spot, their answer will always be, "Um...". If I see something I want and don't write it down right away, I will forget. This has made for some interesting birthdays.
Of course the problem here is communication. If two or more people buy the same thing for the same person, the universe will explode.
This is why I have a huge fondness for White Elephant and Secret Santa. The gifts don't have to be cheap or even brand new and it doesn't matter if the recipient loves or hates it since in the former case nobody knows what they're getting and in the latter you don't have to reveal who's santa you are if you completely blow it.
5. What's in stock- there have been times when I knew exactly what to get somebody, but I just couldn't find the damn thing. The nice thing is if you do manage to find what you're looking for, you feel like a big, damn hero. Especially if you avoided getting trampled to death to get it...
On the flipside, if you don't find it, your feeling of failure is directly related to how long you searched for it. The same goes if the recipient doesn't actually like it.
Which gets to my whole point: it feels like a huge social test or competition. I remember the disappointment I felt for the first time when I bought something for someone that I thought they would love and it turned to out to be the opposite case. Holidays should never be like that.
In the end, what you have left is a great day where you eat tons of the best food you'll ever eat all year, chat and play games with your family, and watch parades on TV.
Except for the actual giving thanks part. It's important for people to stop and reflect on their lives every once and a while and it's probably a safe bet that the majority of people these days don't take the time to do it. It's part of the reason why I blog. Thanksgiving forces people to sit down and be grateful for the wonderful things in their lives and share them with others.
And so as I sit here in this office with my sleep-deprived, caffeiene-hungover brain, I can't help but express my gratitude to the people that put me here in life and made me the person I am today:
-My parents. All four of them. I literally have two moms and two dads. Of course things are never perfect, but I wouldn't be who I am without you. From you I learned love and compassion, practicality and common sense, creativity, and the value of hard work.
-My parents-in-law. Thank you for your continuing encouragement and support.
-My little brother and twin brother. Couldn't have asked for better companions and friends growing up.
-My big brother and sister. Thank you for being good role models and friends.
-My husband. My best friend and constant companion. Some of the best things in life are unexpected and outside the norm. Thank you for reminding me to laugh and think outside the box.
-My old fencing instructor and his family for rounding up us misfits in high school and giving us a place to feel welcome.
-My old orchestra teacher in high school. I never knew a another teacher who believed in and loved her students more.
-Everyone at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and MAGE for making me feel like a part of something awesome.
-My Japanese professors at UW-Milwaukee. They're great people and advisors. Not many students are so lucky. I wouldn't be here without them.
-Everyone at the Japanese Consulate of Chicago for giving me this opportunity.
-All the teachers here for having the openmindedness and patience to accept me into their fold.
-All the ALT's I've had the fortune to meet. Thank you for your support and the constant reminders that we're all in this together.
-All of my friends, old and new, here and everywhere. I may not get to see very many of you, but I cherish every unique and varied relationship.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, everywhere.
***oh yeah, this is a blog about Japan...um...they don't celebrate it. At all. Sometimes they call it
感謝の日(Kansha no hi- "Gratitude Day"), but they never celebrate it. They don't get why turkey is a huge thing or what stuffing is...um...so...Happy Gratitude Day!***