When I was a kid, my family celebrated all the holidays in a Norman Rockwell-esque Midwestern way. There weren’t many of us, so that worked for a while. By the time I hit early adulthood, though, enough had changed that holidays couldn’t be celebrated the way we used to do it, so every year since we’ve made some kind of nontraditional accommodation in one way or another. Now we know that what counts is the time we take together, whenever that is, wherever that is, and whatever it looks like. Sometimes a six-foot meatball subway with your vegetarian second cousin twice removed and the church bag lady on the Sunday before is the best holiday ever.
I dug around a little for what other people might think about Thanksgiving. One of my favorite quotes is from William Jennings Bryan, who from school history, I always thought was a bit of a blowhard. Here’s what he said: “On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.” I love that idea.
A Native American saying also hits the spot for families who might be living through dark days: “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.”
Finally, I rounded up a few memories, thoughts, amusing stories, and jokes about our “uniquely American” (as write O. Henry would say) holiday. Have at it! And wherever you are, with whomever you are, I hope you have a Thanksgiving that brings comfort to your heart.
From Johnny Carson, entertainer:
Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover that once a year is way too often.
From Oprah Winfrey, entertainer:
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.
From Erma Bombeck, journalist:
Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.
From Sherman Alexie, writer:
I always think it’s funny when Indians celebrate Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, the Indians and Pilgrims were best friends during the first Thanksgiving, but a few years later, the Pilgrims were shooting Indians. So I’m never quite sure why we eat turkey like everybody else.”
From Phyllis Diller, comedian:
My cooking is so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.
From Debi Mazar, actor:
On the morning of Thanksgiving, I would wake up to the home smelling of all good things, wafting upstairs to my room. I would set the table with the fancy silverware and china and hope that my parents and grandmother wouldn’t have the annual Thanksgiving fight about Richard Nixon.
From Robbie Robertson, musician:
It’s a bit of a sore spot, the Thanksgiving in Indian country.
From Dave Barry, writer:
Proper turkey preparation is critical. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more Americans die every year from eating improperly cooked turkey than were killed in the entire Peloponnesian War. This is because turkey can contain salmonella—tiny bacteria that, if they get in your bloodstream, develop into full-grown salmon, which could come leaping out of your mouth during an important business presentation.
From Larry Omaha, comedian:
My mother won’t celebrate Thanksgiving. She says it represents the white man stealing our land. But she’s not angry. She figures, what the hell, we’re taking it back one casino at a time.
And—if you want to see what my family looks like, just google weird families under Google Images. You won’t be sorry.