Oui, Oui, Thanksgiving

by Jonah Goldberg

There’s an old Russian saying: “If you see a Bulgarian in the street, beat him. He will know why.”

That used to be my attitude, at least figuratively, toward the French. As NRO readers know, I didn’t coin the phrase “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” (that was The Simpsons) but I was a, if not the, leader in popularizing the term. I have for the most part made my peace with the French (though it remains to be seen whether they have made their peace with me).

I bring this all up because I’m doing something odd: I’m taking the family to Paris for Thanksgiving. A bizarre and unplanned convergence of an unexpected invitation, a fecund frequent flier account, dispensation from the extended family (Mamma G has made other plans. La Dee Dah) and, most crucially, the availability of in situ babysitting, created this wonderful opportunity.

But now I’m feeling guilty. Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. I’ve discussed this a bunch of places. But here are the bullet points of why I love Thanksgiving: 

• It’s not commercialized because there are no gifts. Kay Jewelers has not yet figured out how to pimp-out American womenfolk for Thanksgiving (“every drumstick begins with second-base” never caught on as a slogan).

• It’s America’s only nationalist holiday. The Fourth of July, President’s Day, and even Veterans’ and Memorial Day are celebrations of the nation-state created by the American founding. In short, our other holidays are about patriotism, not nationalism. Thanksgiving meanwhile celebrates a pre-constitutional relationship with the Almighty. I wouldn’t quite say it’s a pre-modern or blood-and-soil holiday, but it is about Providence and the great gift being here, in this place, is. A little mystic nationalism is a good and healthy thing because it provides the emotional sinew that helps us hold onto our patriotism. This country is great and good for many reasons. But one reason for its greatness,  too often forgotten, is that it is ours.

• It’s all about family, formal and informal. The Thanksgiving table is one of the few times every year where you can define your own little nation-state, your own little Hobbit warren, in your own little Shire. I’m not saying that we lose our concern for our fellow man, but we are reminded that life’s joys come not from abstract people, but real ones.

• Left-over turkey sandwiches are as pure a distillation of awesomeness as man has ever conspired to produce.

• Anyway, I’m excited to go to Paris. But I’m realizing how much I’ll miss all that while eating foie gras and onion soup. Fortunately, I’ll have my family with me. So I’ll be bringing the best part of Thanksgiving with me.

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