Dick Maynard Column November 26, 2008

Revisiting Gobble, Gobble

This Thanksgiving Milieu first appeared Nov. 26, 2003. It still rings true today.

Thanksgiving. The favorite. By general acclimation, Thanksgiving seems to have emerged as No. 1 in the contest for most popular holiday, at least among the post-Santa set.

What causes a holiday to make it into the “Top 5” days of national significance?  It would appear a minimum three-day weekend is critical to the popularity of holidays dotting our calendar.

Easter, as a prime example, suffers by its perception as just a two day event since it always falls on Sunday, eliminating the potential for a day off from work for government and bank employees.

Easter would receive a huge popularity boost in the holiday sweepstakes were Good Friday also a legal holiday, making it much easier for the American public not only to attend church for the first time since Christmas Eve but also to catch a long weekend in Las Vegas or Disneyland. Travel time appears the ultimate arbiter of a holiday’s significance in the collective mind of America. 

Some once-popular holidays have fallen upon hard times in public appreciation. Columbus Day falls somewhere between Kwanzaa and the Chinese New Year in terms of public appeal, except in Denver, where the American Indian Movement spends a great deal of time every October ensuring Columbus Day in the Mile High City has a much higher profile than it enjoys elsewhere.

All of this is not to say Thanksgiving has no competition in its effort to be our nation’s most popular holiday. 

Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day offer Thanksgiving a challenge. But these three summer celebrations are more associated with brats and beer than a family feast. And it’s not likely relatives will fly or drive from all over the country just to sit around an uncle’s backyard on a warm summer day drinking beer, eating hot dogs and potato salad while swatting mosquitoes and worrying about West Nile virus.

New Year’s and Martin Luther King’s birthday are welcome days off, but too close to Christmas to gain a serious foothold in the holiday popularity challenge. Presidents Day is a nice winter break but doesn’t qualify as a feast day, regarded more as time off from school when the kids can ski. 

There’s no questioning Christmas as the calendar’s dominant holiday. But with Christmas carols, Christmas cards, Christmas lights, Christmas TV specials, Christmas parties and Christmas merchandise arriving on retailers shelves just after Memorial Day, one gets the feeling Christmas tries too hard. In fact, one could make the case Christmas is pushy.

Aah, but Thanksgiving. The season’s first snow has fallen in the high country, wonderful news for us winter fans. Tomorrow, the best holiday of the year, arrives at a daughter’s home in the Denver ’burbs. Four generations of family will sit down to an absolute feast of turkey and dressing, plus sweet and mashed potatoes. 

Any holiday featuring dueling potatoes has to rank as No. 1. Then you add still-warm fresh baked rolls topped with butter, fresh cranberries, string beans with zippy sauce (family secret recipe), Swedish rye bread, scalloped corn, turkey gravy and a palate-pleasing pinot noir. When the main course is history — despite “Too much, I’m stuffed” — you’re expected to choose between pumpkin or apple pie — “Want that a la mode?” — plus fresh coffee with real cream.

Amid the clatter of silverware, arguments at the “kids’” table (and is it really Thanksgiving without a kids’ table?), and yours truly requesting “more mashies please?” we’ll all talk at once of Turkey Days past.

All holidays are good.  Thanksgiving, however, is the pick of the holiday litter. 


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