Thanksgiving dinner? Shut up!

My family was immune from the verbal pyrotechnics that sometimes plague the major clan-gathering events at year’s end — Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Why? 

We celebrated neither.

The first Thanksgiving. (Library of Congress)

We were not anti-American. We were Jewish and while you may understand us not hoisting a Christmas tree (although some of us did), many of us also didn’t make a groys handlen (Yiddish for big deal) over Thanksgiving. Reason: It falls near Hanukkah, the autumn family gathering. It is sometimes called “the Jewish Christmas.” It is not, although children do get gifts, but not from Santa. The spring gathering, and the more important one, is Passover, which celebrates freedom. It is not “the Jewish Easter.”

Anyway, that is my analysis. 

Because my small family has been scattered for decades, and don’t get along anyway, we don’t gather so there are no political fights over the Thanksgiving table. We fight over the internet and during occasional visits.

Many families don’t fight at Thanksgiving only because tripwire topics are banned.

No, that is not a violation of your First Amendment rights. The 1st prohibits your government from silencing you. Your mother can always tell you to shut up.

Bans can create awkward silences. 

At the start of the meal I would allow everyone to make a political statement of up to five minutes. One rule: Everyone sits in silence — no interruptions are tolerated. At the end of the soliloquy, everyone gets to applaud, boo, make rude gestures or animal sounds. 

And then everyone talks about the children, recent movies or concerts, zoo visits, travel, family history, but not current events. Like, you know, the impeachment inquiry.

Off-limit subjects — in no particular order — include abortion, gun control, “safe” injection sites, the “stolen” election in Georgia, the electoral college, illegal immigration, taxes, tariffs, sheep shearing, climate change, Afghanistan, and how bad the Eagles suck.

Wait! We can discuss how bad the Eagles suck. We agree on that.

I’ve red-lined a lot of subjects. I feel obligated to greenlight some.

Here’s where Your Favorite Columnist comes to the rescue with conversation starters. Each guest selects a question, sight unseen, like from a job jar, and gives an answer. The question “Why?” should follow most answers.

——-

If you could be a famous person for a week, who would that be?

Who was the most influential person in your life?

What two items would you save if your house were on fire?

Looking at the past, what’s the thing you miss most?

If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

What was the last thing you did for the first time?

What is your favorite family tradition, and are you passing it on?

What would you make vanish forever?

What super power do you wish you had?

If you could live at any earlier time, what period would you choose?

Who is the person, living or dead, you would love to have dinner with?

How would you spend $100,000 won in the lottery?

What age would you like to be again?

If you were trapped in a TV show, which would it be?

What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday night?

Which president would you most like to see in a jail cell?

Oops, that slipped in by accident.

Happy Thanksgiving.

37 thoughts on “Thanksgiving dinner? Shut up!”

  1. What a lot of people don’t know, even many Jews, is that the ultra Orthodox do not celebrate Thanksgiving for religious reasons. Thanksgiving is an Americanized version of Sukkos, the feast of Tabernacles, when thanks in ancient Israel was given for the fruits of the harvest. The very Orthodox observe Sukkos itself, and see Thanksgiving not only as a duplication but not Jewish either.

    1. Interesting. I never thought of it that way. Even though I’m not Jewish but I love the combined High Holidays and Sukkot. I teach part time at a Jewish faith-based preschool so we celebrated it with lots of events and sukkah building. The kids loved hanging out in the sukkah at the synagoge. I can’t wait until next year!

  2. Great post Stu, as always. “Thankfully” our Thanksgivings were always a big family fun time with no drama. These are all great convo starters for any large gathering, family or non.

  3. Dear YFC (Your Favorite Columnist): So, as we’re going around the table answering that famous (maybe that’s actually infamous) Question Of The Ages, “What am I Thankful For,” my favorite response is: “…that everyone is keeping their politics to themselves this evening.” That gets groans from the over-50 crowd, and cheering from the under-40 crowd. The one or two political hot heads (any age) present are usually quiet and sullen. By the end of the evening, “IT” sneaks in anyway. I try to load up on tryptophan and sleep through it.

    My other standard response to The Question is, “World Peace.” That always garners snickering. I love it. Hey – ask a stupid question….

  4. Be a famous person for a week? I’m glad that I’m a guy, however, being Hillary Clinton for a week would be interesting. Imagine a full week of lawlessness without being held accountable!

    1. David – regarding becoming Hillary for a week…I don’t think that actually requires changing sex for that week. Now lets see if that makes it past the censors (lol)!

  5. One week as Larry Krasner in which I would fire all employees who wrongly followed my lead and set back the DA’s office for years to come. I would then resign and apology for my failure to understand the uselessness of the word and actions of a progressive. I would then become a jailhouse lawyer comfortable in my true profession.

  6. Tom Garvey says:
    November 26, 2019 at 12:34 pm
    One week as Larry Krasner in which I would fire all employees who wrongly followed my lead and set back the DA’s office for years to come. I would then resign and apology for my failure to understand the uselessness of the word and actions of a progressive. I would then become a jailhouse lawyer comfortable in my true profession.

    Reply

  7. Every time I read one of your writings I learn something fascinating; e.g., the conjunction of Thanksgiving and Sukkoth. Never knew that, but will never forget it.

    On a personal note, my family was Italian-American. Ergo we celebrated Thanksgiving with gunfire and threats of bodily harm.

    1. Reminds me of the joke I wrote about my favorite Italian restaurant. I asked to be seated in the no-shooting section, I ordered broken leg of lamb and my girl friend ordered the lobster, that was served face down in a pool of butter with its claws tied behind its back.
      I got a complaint from the Anti-Discrimination League. I told ADL it’s their job to find offense and I understand that, but I got no complaints from Italians.

  8. HAPPY TUESDAY !!!
    Pallie,
    Just finished watching OUR President host a rally in his new home state of Florida. We could all go to Hershey December 10th for his next rally.
    Thanksgiving. Coming from an Italian-American family of seven, our quiet meals were when only one sibling finished your sentence. Naturally, the table got much larger over the years. Five kids adds five wives plus the grand kids that numbered sixteen, then the greats came along. Always a house full of family for Thanksgiving. Always loud and boisterous but never angry. ( we shouted to be heard over the roar !)
    I’m very thankful and proud to be an American. I know that Stu has done some travelling and I’m sure that he can tell you stories about the rest of the world, as can I.
    My family is healthy and all are doing well. Can’t vouch for the healthy part, but our good fortune may have come by luck, but we worked hard to get what we have AND harder to keep it !
    My easy question gets an essay (as usual ). How would you spend $100,000 won in the lottery?
    I would donate, in equal parts, to Gary Sinese and his organization along with Stephen Siller and Tunnels to Towers.
    Back when I ran the lottery pools at work, everybody was asked what would they do with the winnings. These find outstanding foundations were not around back then, so I simply said that I would build housing for our disabled Vets. It would be completely accessible for each injured Vet. And it would be free. I was asked why, to all of that. It should be obvious. Our people took care of us and it’s more than right that we take care of them. Especially since our beloved government wont do it. Free, because that house, in my opinion, is only a down payment for what we owe to these Veteran and his family.
    Naturally, if I hit by myself for a big one, it would all go to our Veterans. Failing that, I would ask each of you to make a contribution to one of these outstanding organizations.
    Happy Thanksgiving,
    Tony

  9. Stu and everyone else: check out today’s”Column One” on the front page of the LA TIMES, written by Esmeralda Bermudez. The author immigrated to this country and, with the assistance of everyone of us was supported and educated at USC (currently $75k per year). Instead of being eternally thankful for what our nation and its people have done for her, she has decided that Thanksgiving is not an appropriate holiday for her and her family. If anyone still wonders why the electorate was frustrated and angry enough to put that knucklehead in the White House, just give this column a read. For everyone else, Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
      George and blog friends,
      I just read the well written story by Ms Bermudez. Stu can vouch that as a writer for a print outfit, you only get so many words, unless approved for a big story. Too bad that the article is so negative, but then, how do describe the history of the United States in 500 words or less? Add 250 for the telling tales of South America. I think that it’s safe to say, that initially, the white man did not come here with malice aforethought. True, things changed rapidly.
      I wont go into details about our world. How we got here ? What we did to stay here ? Who we utterly destroyed in the process ? and so forth. It’s called history. Through out the world, man has conquered as man went forth. All of the animal kingdom does the same. We just happen to be ( scary thought ! ) at the top of the food chain .
      Tony

  10. Just got up from my nap. What’s this about the animal kingdom and the top of the food chain? I’ll start with the drumstick, please. Thank you.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!
    Don’t forget to say Grace.

  11. It’s Thanksgiving already and I want to give thanks to MFC, Stu, of course, and to his many fans who controvert the belief that Americans are illiterate and apathetic. Thank you one and all for your insight, charm, and humor. And Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. Writing for the HISTORY CHANNEL website, Becky Little (2019) noted that the Pilgrims who arrived in Plymouth in 1620 rarely bathed back home. According to Jim Acton (2019), the winds they encountered on their two-month journey across the pond were not strong enough to blow the stink off. The Native Americans, on the other hand, were clean. They regularly took baths in the rivers and streams (Little). They smelled fresh and clean, like Irish Spring (Acton).

    Imagine that first Thanksgiving dinner: The Pilgrims on one side of the table instructing the Native Americans how to say grace; the Native Americans on the other side of the table struggling with the words, “We thank thee for thy bounty,” while simultaneously holding their noses (Acton).

  13. Stu,
    Just like to say I hope your Thanksgiving and all contributors to this great Blog was as fulfilling, no pun intended, as mine and rewarding. My great nephew, 29 years old, and I, after his mother’s fantastic meal, were engaged in light conversation watching football when his phone beeped?? He says “President Trump is in Afghanistan with our troops.” I went, “Oh!, didn’t he just do that recently somewhere?” He says, “Yeah, not sure where.” I quietly asked if he likes Trump. “Who doesn’t?” he replies with a broad smile. Our conversation dramatically changed, to say the least. He admitted he had voted for Obama but…………. Wow!… I felt both vindication and REAL HOPE!

    1. Thanks for sharing. Luckily, Half Pint and I are on the same page, nothing to argue about.
      My daughter is a Berner, she lives in Mass. my son lives in W.V., and I suspect he is for Trump, but I have not asked.

      1. My son and I are conservatives. My great nephew’s brother is a polar opposite living in California. Both are close and I love them dearly.

  14. Thanksgiving dinner was lovely, however, the hosts were ardent leftists. Along with the prosaic Trump bashing, they asserted that Asians invited trouble by establishing retail businesses in minority neighborhoods. Blame the victims.
    I felt tempted to suggest that the Clintons’ turkey committed suicide. However, being a polite guest, I held my tongue.

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