Why a Pagan Does Thanksgiving

I am a ridiculously terrible, frantic, and nervous cook. Most of my successes are nothing short of amazing ... as in amazing that it was edible, much less enjoyable. So undertaking a whole day's worth of slaving over the stove and oven, spending money on a gigantic feast that we certainly won't finish, all in the name of a harvest that I already celebrated a couple months before for Lammas/Lughnassadh seems silly. After all, I've got Cherokee blood, and it's the Indians who taught the Pilgrims how to plant and harvest crops, but frankly, the Pilgrim/Indian relationship wasn't exactly sunshine and roses either.

But here I am, planning to do Thanksgiving yet again, and getting my children involved in the tradition of spending the whole day with Daddy while Mommy runs around like a chicken (turkey?) with its head cut off, so again I have to ask myself: "Why bother?"


I'm fairly sure the suggestion is one pound of turkey per person, or maybe two if you want leftovers. I've got a four-person family, so at the most, maybe I could justify an eight pound dead bird. But no. My landlord has continued to bring us 15- to 18-pound frozen turkeys annually. The first year, I didn't thaw it enough, had never cleaned out a bird before, and this one didn't have the pieces in neat bags stuffed inside. I spent almost an hour practically crying because my hand hurt from the cold mostly-frozen and stabby insides of the bird I was elbow-deep in, and still patently uncomfortable even doing this to a dead animal, trying to pry its neck out of its stomach cavity through its butt, and wondering what the hell I was doing and why, when turkey doesn't even taste that good in the first place.

The second year, I thawed the turkey (again, ridiculously huge) in advance, and the insides were in bags, so it was much easier, but I was so irritated with the process yet again that I never even cleaned the leftovers off the bone and just threw what we didn't eat away, and then felt terribly guilty.

So the past two years in a row, I've given the bird he brings to a neighbor (and if he reads this, now he knows -- sorry Dave!). If she didn't want it, I was going to take it to a homeless shelter. I just am not doing that again. Instead, I bought a precooked honey spiral ham and a very small turkey which I cooked in the Crock-Pot -- not the oven. Much, much more pleasant experience. I've also learned the fine art of following recipes, and have a much sharper knife that actually cuts things without brute strength (who knew?). My confidence in my cooking has improved over the years as well (it's been a little while since something was inedible!) and I was actually able to enjoy the fruits of my labor last year, while still doing the most important thing -- spending time with my family.

For all my whining about the holiday and complaints about it being novelty, I still do it. Pagan holidays focus on the changes of the planet, and are divided equally throughout the year, celebrating things like changes in seasons and sunlight. 

But just like Valentine's Day, I've decided I'm just happy to have another special day during the year to spend with my family, taking the time to stop with the routine and actually really focus on each other -- something life often gets in the way of. And now that I've become slightly more competent at cooking and can relax a little more, I can just enjoy the day of knowing that we can provide such a special meal and day for our kids, regardless of my opinions about the importance of the actual holiday itself.

What special things do you do with your family on Thanksgiving?

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