Americans still remember

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Most count their blessings on Thanksgiving

By Jay Miller

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. One of the reasons is that Americans still remember why we celebrate it.
Thanksgiving isn’t just another holiday, to which we give not one thought other than that it is a day off work.
Nearly all of us truly remember to give thanks and truly celebrate the holiday.
Unlike Christmas, there is no stress around giving and receiving presents. The purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving is very simple and very easy to observe.
We’re told that all cultures observe some sort of day to give thanks. It seems to be a basic human need to back away from trouble, stress and daily commotion and reflect on one’s blessings no matter how meager they may be.
In this part of the country, where we can boast a European presence that predates English settlements on the East Coast, we have some fun claiming that America’s first Thanksgiving occurred near El Paso in 1598.
That’s when Don Juan de Onate and his band of settlers paused on their journey northward to feast and give thanks to God for getting them through the desert and providing them with a river crossing.
But it will never replace the story about Squanto and the Pilgrims. The observance of Thanksgiving is so comfortable. Family gathers, often from afar. Sometimes good friends without family are included. Generations of cooks gather in the kitchen to discuss and prepare old recipes.
The smell of turkey and the trimmings begins to fill the air. Old stories are told, getting better every year. And after dinner, generations of males step outside to toss around a football. And sometimes grandpa is taken to the emergency room after aggravating that old shoulder injury.
Which brings us to those who can’t take off for the holiday: the nurses and emergency room workers, police and firefighters, airline employees and truckers, and most of all, those who serve and protect us around the world.
For some, this will be the first Thanksgiving away from home and loved ones. Many of those will be New Mexicans serving in National Guard units called to active duty in locations far, far away. For them, the taste of turkey will have a very special meaning.
Here’s some more reasons Thanksgiving is special. It’s a four-day weekend for most people. Who works on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Most employers don’t even expect it. Employees trade it for a vacation day or for a non-observed holiday like Presidents’ Day.
Of course, mall employees work even harder than usual on the day after Thanksgiving, because it is the beginning of the holiday season, the busiest shopping day of the year. It is called Black Friday because it is the day when many retailers say they finally get to quit using red ink for their bottom line.
   Thanksgiving also is a day when it is acceptable to stuff oneself and grudgingly permissible to watch sports on television all day. Well, almost all day. Do we really have to turn off the Cowboy game during dinner?
   Thanksgiving gives political columnists the opportunity to give thanks for our first female governor in over 400 years of our state’s history. And it allows us to write about the turkeys from out of state who ran the political campaigns.
Thanksgiving is a holiday with which American Indians have trouble. As with Columbus Day, they can’t see much need to celebrate the beginning of a hostile takeover of their land.
Some teachers try to add the Indian point of view to the romanticized version of the first meetings between Indians and White settlers. Usually parental concerns put an end to that and schools leave it to families to interpret the holiday in their own traditions.
Regardless of how you celebrate Thanksgiving, please enjoy it and be happy that in this part of the world there’s usually green chile in the stuffing and red chile in the gravy.

JAY MILLER, insidethecapitol@hotmail.com