Not my homeys.

Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday, for it remains vibrant as the quintessential American holiday — more than July Fourth, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. (They are all lovely holidays, but have lost too much of their original meaning.)

By claiming that Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, I mean that we all pretend that the Thanksgiving story is ours, that we ourselves have descended from pilgrims. At our Thanksgiving tables, we are very aware of the arrival of our people to this land — and how we are now thankful for the bounty that America continues to offer so many of us. Thanksgiving is the central marketing event of the American brand.

So it’s truth. But it’s not fact.
There are lots of problems with the Thanksgiving story. Chief among them:

1. the arrival of “my people” to this land was a calamity to the native population.
2. I don’t know about you, but “my people” on the Mayflower weren’t my people. (My first American ancestors came here in the 1860s; others later.)

And yet, we do.

Wantcranberrynot…yet here is my family, traveling home at great inconvenience to prepare and eat a ritual dinner. To be sure, the dinner isn’t as good as we can eat any other day of the year, but we eat it even though the cranberry sauce comes from a can, and the green beans have canned mushroom soup and canned fried onions on them — because it’s the American meal.

By joining to eat this meal, immigrants throughout American history have demonstrated that they are Americans, adapting the meal with their own spices. Thanksgiving is our way of adopting the American story — and being adopted by this country as Americans.

I’ve heard that the Thanksgiving meal is growing in popularity in England — the very place the original pilgrims were giving thanks from having escaped. What a world!

For what might you give thanks?