“A seductive turkey, yummy gravy, crispy soft potatoes, boiled buttery corn on the cob, cranberry sauce maybe? That’s the first image you’d imagine once I say the magic word “Thanksgiving”, yes, I can see it in your eyes; you are looking far to the horizon picturing it and you just imagined that tasty warm dish among a group of westerners you never met in your real life. That if you ever managed to know what cranberry is of course. If you do, we can be friends; if you do not, my friend, I envy you; for you are to discover a taste unfathomable yet,” as described by Sara El-Lithy.
There I sat, staring blandly in the screen and thinking of what to type down, thankful for the cold, soothing breeze of winter even with the drought of thought. I asked my friend about what Thanksgiving means to her and that was the answer that reminded me that I really have to grab something to eat. Also, that I can definitely write about Thanksgiving!
One of the merits of globalization is that someone located in Northern Africa is familiar with the concept of Thanksgiving holidays; marked as the fourth Thursday of November and followed by Black Friday. It is oddly quaint how demographic portions across the globe may differ in ethnicity, religion and societal norms, yet, unintentionally share a form of a hive-consciousness and tacit concurrence, e.g. as a child growing in Egypt, I had plenty of options after school; I am either allowed to eat, study, sleep or die as I used to add defiantly as a kid; Lucky enough to be living in a country harboring great appreciation to the sense of witty rebuttals in youngsters; I learned how to dodge flying slippers and objects at a very young age and setting me on the path of the ninja. I discussed this notion with a number of foreign friends in the States and Europe and we found out that the majority of us, within the same age group, share a semblance of the experience or the like, as they share a brief knowledge about Middle Eastern festivals and cuisine, uncanny that they are aware of.
Thanksgiving takes root in many of Judeo-Christian theological records, albeit it is more of a common-folk laical celebration. The most common feature noted in countries that celebrate it that it was related to harvest; a thanks-giving for the yield and beseeching blessings to be bestowed upon the next harvest. There are some arguments regarding the first celebrations as for the nature and motives driving it; some argue that Thanksgiving is of a religious pallor whilst others defend that it is merely a secular holiday and tradition.
Some even claim that it goes back to Ancient Babylon and even Ancient Egypt. The origins of Thanksgiving retains some vagueness around its inception, still, most commonly its jubilation is sported in the form of a hefty feast with courses that set a blazing farewell to that summer body you contemplated working hard to achieve and then resorted to accept your destiny and your metabolic rate as it is. After the monumental advance in technology and the rise and birth of new markets, it still retains such the fiesta aspect in addition to it becoming a prompt for people to run into malls like there is a biological outbreak-that is formal for zombie apocalypse-alas, gone are the days of simple joys as such of a family gathering, reduced to a tradition of the bygone and remembered in a bittersweet reminiscence.
I believe that over the last two decades, a societal landslide took place; it is hard to deny its rippling effect till this moment and even continues to morph and shift with an expanding epicenter. Curious it is to watch Egyptian businesses and service providers market and polish discounts for items to sell on Black Friday-not demeaning any businesses or such other than those who approach life as mere numbers-marking the start of winter sales surge and the coming end of the current year till Christmas. The rite of expressing thanks for all the boons bestowed upon us-regardless of the theological background-became tainted with consumerism, bespeaking sly manipulative takes on wants and needs; one does not know where the first starts and the later ends.
It can be attributed to the transformation from agricultural and basic feudal economy to an industrial social foundation; the birthing spore of corporate avarice and the ruthless process of acquiring profits and entity pseudo-actualization on the expense of humans and humanity bit by bit. This disease of consumerism taking over the sentimental aspect of the holidays and deforming it to utter materialism is not only affecting Thanksgiving; it’s affecting other celebrations and days like Christmas, Eid EL-Fitr and El-Adha and even Ramadan, rendering them no different than another regular weekday or month with no singularity in them whatsoever, reduced to a month or an interval of time when you spend hard-earned money carelessly because there is a 50% sale on an item that cost 5% of the aforementioned percentage; or because you are obliged to get that because otherwise you will not be honoring the spirit of the holidays or simply the worst feelings that frightens us; the feeling of being left out.
It can be upsetting to process this thought and it may even be too pessimistic a view than real-life in an overkill manner. However, it is evident that social mindsets are adamantly marching towards this bleak grind by its own accord. Orwell’s 1984 did speculate some foreboding life patterns and although we can see that capitalism took over the world, in a particularly eerie way, we live in a world that resembles that depicted in the novel, despite the fact that the novel is a warning against the spread of communism. Fancy names and yet the games are all the same. Whatever sells, be it discounts, a phony sense of unity, a phonier sense of freedom or fighting till the last drop of innocent blood for the sake and glory of the homeland. I always find it amusing that the term “Black Friday” was coined by the law enforcement forces of Philadelphia, and them calling shifts on this day “the nightmare shift,” for very understandable reasons, hell breaking loose and people brawling over a TV monitor and such. What should be deemed as a day of Thankfulness by all people becomes an ailment to some others who either see the blunt side of it or those ungrateful because they were denied their Thanks in the first place.
I liked how Kennedy addressed the qualm of the origin of Thanksgiving, settling debates between states claiming they are the first to celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. His compromise was simple and aesthetically on point, without any monotonic recitation of history; it was simply that the matter of essence is not of who is the messenger rather than the emphasis of the message itself. The things we should be thankful for are many, and in a very realistic tone as well.
The gift of sentience itself is one to be thankful for; the gift of family whether limited to blood-kin or extended family members in friends and loved ones; the ability to learn from events and the thought process, speculating of every aspect of the universe and how that we are insignificant in the universe as we are of the utmost significance within ourselves, that is a contradiction so scary, beautiful and to be thankful for; the gift of health and lack of it, making one appreciate what remains of it and choose to spend it wisely; the gift of winter breeze, good coffee and better company; the gift of solitude, one’s own respite in the face of a crushing grind. Thanksgivings is a time one should embrace the benevolence around them, even menial, even a tiny sliver. If goodness remains even in scant proportions; it is still goodness, thus, it is still hope.
So, as you are heading to your home after clawing for that new TV set or Electronic appliance from the horde of compulsive consumers; take a step back from yourself and think of what you are thankful for; sappy as it may sound, you will be thankful that you did.