Thursday, December 01, 2005

 Thanksgiving is not where it belongs 

It's November, when winter weather begins to lay siege too much of North America. Trees are all bereft of leaves, snow has fallen most likely in the northern tier of states, skiers may be hitting the slopes in a few choice locations like Utah, Colorado, or California...and the winter holidays, Christmas et al., are only weeks away. Schools will soon empty nationwide, from kindergartens to every public and private university. Non-retail businesses prepare to have their employees vacating for a de facto December shut-down. Stores have already begun with the decorations, and millions of Americans prepare travel plans for those holidays that are just around the corner.

So would someone please explain to me, why on goddess' green earth do we have another family holiday just 3 weeks before the biggest holiday season of them all?

Every year those same aforementioned millions of Americans set out to reunite with family and friends - mostly family - in late November, one of the worst travel times of the year. Tens of millions of extra miles will be driven or flown, beyond that which would otherwise occur, to commemorate a holiday that is allegedly a harvest festival. In late November. Seriously, why?

From an academic perspective, this is really silly. Classes have to undergo a major interruption, just a week or two before the term is about to end anyway. Some college students end up taking the whole week off, treating it as the Autumn analog of Spring Break. Not that you can blame them, because these students have mostly been in classes for up to 12, 13, even 14 weeks straight. But it's not truly a week off, it's at most 4 days. A long weekend, at best.

I understand and appreciate the sentimental and wholesome nature of Thanksgiving, and far be it from me to want to take it away from anyone. I don't propose that at all - instead, I want to make it better. I want to improve Thanksgiving. And the way to improve Thanksgiving is to move Thanksgiving. Catchy, eh? Mend it don't end it.

Let's have Thanksgiving in October, say, the third week. Sometime between the 17th and the 24th, something like that, over a full month earlier than what it is now. Think of the advantages: we can celebrate a real harvest festival at a time when real food is being harvested - what a concept! We can also do the big holiday travel thing like before, except it is far less likely to be disrupted by nasty winter storms. In other words, you're less likely to get stranded in an airport with overpriced concessions, or on some lonely stretch of interstate in a blizzard with no extra blankets. Also, the days are longer and warmer, so you can spend more time outside with the family, enjoying the fall color. The Canadians already have the right idea, with the celebration of their version in the second week of October - why should they have all the fun? Why do we deny ourselves a better time of year for this important holiday?

And for all you religiously inclined folks - now you get a nice wholesome family holiday to steal the thunder from Satan-worshiping Halloween. And for all you witches and warlocks, now you can combine your pagan rituals with a nice turkey dinner with everyone in your coven. It's really a win-win. Academia gets a nice break smack dab in the middle of the term, when they need it the most. (Those on the quarter system, who just started in early October, get a nice early vacation.) And late November is freed up to start a real runup to the holiday shopping season, without having to worry about a short one every few years, as is under the current system.

We can do this - we need to do this. The current system is silly and causes completely unnecessary inconvenience. Just because the date was established many decades ago (1939 if Wikipedia is to be believed) is no reason we can't adjust it for our modern era. So tell your friends and family - let's get this thing done. The way to improve Thanksgiving is to move Thanksgiving.

UPDATE: A man after my own heart: Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune apparently thinks the same way I do. Good man.

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