Thanksgiving is a huge event at my home, as I am sure it is at many peoples. It is rich in tradition and signifigance for us and holds many of my fondest memories. This is not unusual in America. Thanksgiving holds that place for many of us, the reason I think it is noteworthy to blog about is because of my Atheism. I have seen on many forums that atheists shouldn't celebrate thanksgiving because it is all about thanking god. One Christian even calls atheism the "sin of ingratitude." I have heard others make similar claims regarding atheists. I think it is useful to explain why a nominally religious holiday is important to a secular person such as I.
The concept of Thanksgiving is not uniquely American or uniquely Christian. The harvest festival in all of its forms transcends culture and time. It is ancient and appears all around the world. It is however clearly religious. It is always about thanking God, the Gods, or the Goddess for the bounty of the harvest. In the American version it is also about thanking the Christian god for all manner of things not related to agriculture. In theory it shouldn't be relevant to an atheist.
Thankfulness and gratitude are important to atheists, at least those I know. Very much so. I am thankful to my employer for giving me useful work and a livelihood. I am thankfull to my friends and family for their love and support. I am thankful to my wife for many, many, things. I am thankful to my government, corrupt and broken though it is, for providing an economy that allows me, even in times of struggle and worry, to provide a table groaning with good food for the people I love. I am a man bursting with gratitude. I simply feel gratitude to real people for real things, rather than crediting an imaginary being with anything.
The thing I enjoy most about the holiday is preparing the feast. I come from a family where love is shown by cooking. It is a matter of fact that if you love someone you fix them food, it goes back to my childhood. At our home it has always been my daughter and I that make the holiday meals, this year my son joined us as well. My wife bakes the breads and pies but the bird belongs to me. My girl and I have been doing it together since she was four and it is a pivotal part of our relationship. Starting in October we begin planning the menue and buying this that and the other that we will need. We spend days before making stock and prepping herbs, and shopping for produce. This year times are a bit lean and we planned a simple dressing without some of the more expensive additions that we sometimes include. We had a bit of a windfall however. we had purchased some Crimini mushrooms to use and were going to leave it at that. Oregon is a mushroom pickers state and at the last minute we recieved a gift of Chantrells, Morells and Shitake which we gleefully added to the mix. We also recieved a basket of bright bell peppers and a beautiful fennel bulb complete with stalks and fronds. It is great to be surrounded by organic gardens and farms.
The meal turned out to be extrordinary. We have turkey cooking down to a science and always have a juicy bird but this one I think was better than most. It was tender and flavorful and just perfect. Everything seemed just a cut above. I think the hardships and worry we have had this year have made us more appreciative of the bounty that we still possess.
Yesterday was a local event which is called the Festival of Trees. It is where local merchants and philanthropists provide extravegantly decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and gift baskets which are auctioned off for charity. This year it is to support a hospice for end of life care. This is a favorite holiday event of my wifes, and this year my sons dance company was performing on one of the entertainment stages. Everything is beautiful and there is great food and the event smells and looks purely of Christmas. My son was extrordinary, this is his first year in the tap company and also the first year dancing on stage without his friend and usual dance partner who did not join. It is funny because she is the reason he tap dances in the first place. He took his first class at four and at the end of the year he said he didn't want to tap anymore. I said fine but when enrollement came up this little girl said "Mic, pleae take tap with me please" being his fathers son and a sucker for the ladies he agreed and he has every year since, just for her. Finally he has come to enjoy it for its own sake and is very good. When the performing company asked him to join he said yes even though his friend wasn't going to. He did say that he doesn't like dancing without her as much though.
I fell in love with one of the trees there and was tempted to bid on it. This is normally the time of year when I can afford that sort of thing. It was luxurious with gold balls, red velvet ribbons, holly and little toy cardinals all over it. I was sold on it before I saw that it also came with presents beneath, includin a video camera and a seven day vacation to mauii with airfare, hotel, spending money, and resteraunt vouchers. Qhen I looked at the bids it was already over a thousand which would have put me out of the running even on a good year. Still it was a very pretty tree.
I hope everyone reading this had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you have a Merry Christmas as well.
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