When I was young and my parents were married, we had "traditional" Thanksgiving feasts in our home (Davis) and in friends across the Bay Area.
When they got divorced, we let some of that go -- my mom did not grow up in the United States so (on our own) the recipes and rituals were not meaningful. If we did not join a friend's Thanksgiving, we usually opted to go to the movies. It's was a melancholy time - just a warm up to the misery of Christmas.
In high school, when money was tight and tensions in my house were high, I volunteered to work all day and night at my job in the local movie rental store.
In college (UCSD), missing home but with no car, I would either take the Greyhound Bus or contribute gas money to someone driving up North. While money will still incredibly tight, being with family was the most important and seeing a film on Thanksgiving was our anticipated ritual.
The melancholy lessened over the years.
What helped was shifting the meaning of the space that Thanksgiving provides -- mindful practice of gratitude. My partner and I cooked up feasts of our liking: Cuban pork one year and an array of ceviches another year. With children, we have continued the practice of taking the entire month to focus on gratitude and to commune over meals with friends.
Personal history, sensitivity to socio-economic conditions, and family tensions can be considered "data" to analyze as we experience Thanksgiving and the school break that gives room for this holiday. If I am teaching an Introduction course or Qualitative Methods, I usually assign this type of extra credit project. Below, find my assignment for this semester.
The Sociology of Thanksgiving
Extra Credit Assignment
Soc 101 ~ Fall 2014
First, read these links in detail…
Overlooked Thanksgiving Rituals According to Sociologists
Holiday or Work? Thanksgiving and Social Class
Secular Ritual: Durkheim at the Thanksgiving Day Parade
Thanksgiving – A Day of Celebration or a Day of Mourning?
Former Foster Children (now in college) Cope with Thanksgiving Break
Black Friday and the Consumption Dance
Second, view at least two of these films; they feature holiday meals…
The Big Night
Eat Drink Man Woman
Home for the Holidays
Pieces of April
The Ice Storm
She’s Gotta Have It
Hannah and Her Sisters
Third, pay attention to your own Thanksgiving break experience.
Did you have a sumptuous meal? Did you work? Were you with family? What were the conflicts? What are your rituals – both traditional and new – that you incorporate into this 4 day holiday break? Sports? Shopping?
Fourth, put it all together…
Drawing upon the material – films, essays, research, and your life – write a 2-page, singled-spaced analytical reflection on the topic of The Sociology of Thanksgiving (Break). Feel free to use the sociological material from our course as well. You may organize in a way that fits your analysis; however, you must incorporate all the required / minimum materials mentioned above.
Print it out and bring it to class on Monday.