Thanksgiving Ain’t What It Used To Be (And I Like it That Way)

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. It combines all the things I like best: food, autumn, a day off work, family, and of course, food. Many of my best memories fall around this time.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant whole Sundays spent at my Nana’s house helping her in the kitchen, and adventures outside with my cousin Amy tracking down the perfect fall leaves to decorate the table. My dad and my uncles would put tables end to end to end from the dining room to the living room, and there we’d eat as one huge family, kids and adults together sharing stories and jokes. My family was a weird mosaic of faith, people with different traditions who never really talked about them for fear of stepping on toes, or being stepped on. Around this table sat my Catholic mother and my not-yet-Catholic father, my Catholic uncle and my agnostic aunt. My godmother who didn’t ever speak of God, my nana who came from a long line of Catholic-bashing Orangemen, my Anglican grandpa, my recently baptized cousins, and two absolutely godless cocker spaniels. We didn’t talk about our differences, except when it came to which pie or digestif was the right one to top off the night.

At Trinity, I was far from the gorgeous reds and golds and Glenn-Cookes of Northern Ontario, but Thanksgiving came to mean a whole lot more to me when I could fulfill the old cliché of ‘making my own family,’ just as spiritually diverse as the original. My best friend Christina and I hosted huge dinners every fall. We hijacked all the ovens nearby, filled every space on our tables with food, and every space on our floor and couches with the butts of our friends. We sang and laughed and ate, and there was no conversation unavoided at our table. We all gave thanks, in our own way and through our own traditions, and the only time we worried about protecting toes was when we inevitably stood up in the sea of people to get seconds.

It’s been a long time since I’ve celebrated my favourite holiday with either of those two big families of mine, and though this year will be different again, I know that it won’t be difficult to be thankful. I’ve finally moved into the city that has been calling my name for almost a decade, living with two incredible and hilarious friends. I’m spending my time on stage or in a classroom learning to tell good stories and better punchlines alongside some of Vancouver’s finest improvisers and comics. I pinch myself every time I walk into a comedy club or an improv workshop, shocked that I belong and that I can pursue this dream of mine that is becoming more real every day. I look forward to crowding this new home with plates of too much food, with more people than there are seats, with loud music and louder laughter; louder even than the godless crows outside.

I appreciate Thanksgiving so much because, it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. People are always talking about how Christmas isn’t about presents, or Easter isn’t about chocolate, and Halloween just tends to make people crazy trying to demonize or justify it. Thanksgiving is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about giving thanks for where we are, what we have, and who we’re with. It is about the food. It is about the party.

Maybe I just love food a little too much, but I really think that more than anything, feasting with our people prepares us to receive Christ. Whether we celebrate the Eucharist (which means ‘thanksgiving’) as a literal reception of His body and blood, or as a symbol of His sacrifice for us, the knowledge that we need to eat and drink to survive, means that it should also be a reminder that we need Christ. The fact that food and drink make everything so much more enjoyable, reminds us that He is not just necessary, but He makes our lives richer, too.

Thanksgiving, thank God, is about the food. But thank food, for reminding us of the richness of God.