Top-10 Reasons To Hail Holiday


November 19, 1995|By ROB KASPER

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. Here are 10 reasons why.

First, it is the right length -- a three-day celebration. I count the three days of the holiday as Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday and Wednesday, the days devoted to holiday travel, are bummers, so I toss them out.

The big problem with other holidays is that they last too long. For example, we may start off the Christmas season all cheery and bright, but after weeks of shopping, we begin considering tying folks to the Christmas tree and having a big bonfire.

Thanksgiving avoids this problem. You can get along with anybody for three days, even most of your relatives. Besides, if you should have trouble mixing with the kinfolk, you can always run to work on Friday and blame your boss. Thanksgiving has a built-in pressure-relief day.

Second, during the Thanksgiving proceedings the kitchen table gets the respect it deserves. I believe most of life's significant events either happen at the kitchen table or are discussed there. This is especially true during this holiday season. The table is where potatoes are peeled, coffee consumed, leftovers eaten, and stories told. The heavy-duty holiday work may be done at the sink and stove, but the kitchen table provides crucial entertainment.

Third, Thanksgiving is a full-employment holiday. There is enough work for everyone, regardless of skill. If you don't cook, you can fetch forgotten ingredients. Or you can take the little kids for long walks. Or wash dishes. About the only way to be left out of the proceedings is to hide in the basement.

Fourth, at Thanksgiving we do something our moms have been trying to get us to do for years: We get passionate about vegetables. People who normally don't give a hoot about vegetables suddenly become adamant that certain vegetables -- creamed onions, for instance, or, in my case, hominy -- appear on the Thanksgiving table. The turkey may get the media attention, but it is these vegetable side dishes, these "gotta haves," that inspire loyalty among the masses.

Fifth, Thanksgiving is the only major holiday where jelly has to be served at the main meal. I am talking about cranberry jelly, that dark red stuff that jiggles as it sits on the table. Like a lot of families, ours has tried out fancier versions of the berry. The all-powerful committee of cooks -- my mother, my wife and my sister-in-law -- will soon rule, for example, on whether last year's garlicky cranberry chutney will merit a reappearance this year. But there will be no question about the appearance of the jiggling jelly. It is a fixture.

The sixth reason Thanksgiving is the greatest holiday is the way its disputes are settled. The question, for example, of whether mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes should win a spot on the menu is resolved by serving both.

The seventh reason Thanksgiving is the best is that it is the nation's premier pie-friendly holiday. The trouble with America today is that we are not baking enough homemade pies. The number of pies baked from scratch in American homes fell 48 percent from 1979 to 1989. During the same period that pie baking slumped, faith in institutions declined, fewer people said they could trust their fellow man, and the divorce rate increased. In short, the social fabric of America fell apart.

Thanksgiving is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise grim national outlook on dessert making. At Thanksgiving, not only do most proper American households serve a homemade pumpkin pie, they also serve companion pies: mincemeat, apple or coconut cream. Making multiple pies is good for the nation. Show me somebody who loves his homemade pies, and I will show you a patriot.

Thanksgiving falls in oyster season, and that is the eighth reason it is the best holiday. In Maryland, folks tend to take fresh, juicy oysters for granted. In the Midwestern town where I grew up, oysters were a rarity. They showed up only at special events, such as Thanksgiving dinner, and then only in a few households, like that of my Uncle Charlie. One year, Uncle Charlie ate Thanksgiving dinner at our house, and a bowl of oyster stuffing showed up on our table. I have had fond feelings for Uncle Charlie and the holiday ever since.

The ninth reason Thanksgiving is the best holiday is that it marks the end of high school football season and the beginning of basketball season. I played high school football out of a sense of duty; the team needed bodies. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around I sighed with relief. I had made it through football season without serious injury and I could start playing basketball, the sport I played for fun. Now I'm more often a spectator than a participant in these sports. But I still feel good when I hear basketballs bouncing in school gyms. It means the season of duty has given way to the season of joy.

Finally, Thanksgiving does the best job of what a holiday is supposed to do. It brings us together. It reminds us of where we came from. It helps fill the emptiness inside us. Pass the pie.

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