I really don't care about Thanksgiving.
There, I said it.
According to a Gallup poll, nine out of 10 Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day with friends and family. Another poll stated that up to 13 percent of Americans will dine alone on Thanksgiving; in a country of nearly 320 million people, that's more than 41 million people who are not buying turkey and trading stuffing recipes with colleagues, nor dreading awkward family conversations, nor brimming with anticipation over America's second-most popular holiday. I'm not alone in not celebrating Thanksgiving, but it sure feels like it sometimes.
As a first-generation child of loving Asian parents, I never celebrated Thanksgiving in the traditional manner since my family wasn't accustomed with the holiday. Think about it: there is something arbitrary about celebrating America's controversial roots by roasting a turkey and making homemade stuffing. Some immigrant families embrace the tradition and that's wonderful. Mine never did and I am fine with that. So, when I was younger, I would stay home and eat a normal meal with my family. Often, we'd go to a movie that day. I was as happy on that day as on other days, and it never occurred to me that what we did was very different from the norm.
This changed when I went to college. During my freshman year, when I first shrugged and told friends that I had no plans, I received unexpected outpourings of sympathy and spent the week awkwardly batting off dinner invitations. During Thanksgiving of my sophomore year, I stayed at the dorm since my parents were working during that day, which wasn't unusual for us. I ate my turkey and mashed potatoes from a plastic tray among a smattering of students who looked lost, lonely, and abandoned. I wasn't sad at the start of my dinner, but I certainly felt sadder at the end of it.
I've met other people who don't celebrate Thanksgiving for similar reasons as mine (immigrant families), negative associations (divorced parents whose holiday turf battles made for bad memories), or people now in the U.S. who grew up overseas in non-American households. Others are single or simply end up alone that day. And for the most part, we are fine not celebrating Thanksgiving. We order food in, sometimes we cook, or otherwise eat out at a restaurant. My French husband naturally never celebrated Thanksgiving in France, and thus we spend the day like any other. We're happy with that.
Until the day approaches. Years ago, I started off by trying to be honest in conversations about my lack of plans. I attempted to placate coworkers and friends with excited details about what I'd order in and what book I'd been anxious to curl up with. I still received horrified looks and immediate and charitable invitations to join for dinner. "You shouldn't be alone," they said. This year, I've occasionally lied to avoid the conversation. Just a few hours ago, I told my boss that I would be celebrating at a small dinner with friends. I'm doing no such thing, but I don't want to keep seeing pity in others' eyes. For most Americans, it's unthinkable to stay in on Thanksgiving and not have a big meal among family and friends. I understand that's how most people have been raised- it's just not how I was raised.
There are blog posts and tips out there with suggestions on how to spend Thanksgiving if you are alone and need help coping with the holiday blues. If this is your situation, I sympathize and promise that time-passing diversions are at your fingertips.
But if you're like me and never celebrated Thanksgiving to begin with -- nor do you feel inclined to celebrate -- embrace it. Order in. Eat out. Enjoy your alone time, if it comes to that. Go for a hike. Read a book or re-watch a favorite series on Netflix. Don't feel guilty or weird. There are 41 million of us out there who won't cook or participate in grandiose poultry dinners this Thursday. We're okay.
Thanks for the dinner invitation, really! But we've got plans.