Traditional holidays and how we celebrate them say a lot about culture. Because of this, they often become part of my stories in some way/shape/form as a way to describe how people live in my future society.
I love Thanksgiving, in part because it is so unique. Whereas most holidays are to remember an event (4th of July for American independence, Easter for Christ’s resurrection, Christmas for the birth), Thanksgiving is about appreciation. It stands apart as one of the few Holidays in which the celebration is about the Present, not about the Past. To celebrate, families and friends get together to consume more food than we would otherwise normally eat.
Consumption itself isn’t unique to the Thanksgiving holiday – our culture is so intensely commercialized you can argue that case for pretty much any American holiday. But Thanksgiving is the one national holiday where this consumption is encourage to the point it is practically glorified.
“If you haven’t unbuckled at least one notch in your belt through the course of dinner then you haven’t really celebrated Thanksgiving.”
A lot of people may feel Christmas glorifies this same kind of consumption. It is certainly the most commercialized holiday of them all. But no matter how many people are trampled by selfish idiots in Wal-Marts around the country this year, those who celebrate Christmas will recall “the reason for the season”, even if that statement comes with some level of irony, hypocrisy or guilt. Choose any five popular Christmas movies and you’ll find at least one or two based around the idea that Christmas is about so much more than shopping and material goods. The idea that Christmas is about consumption is almost always denied, and it is reinforced with or without the religious roots of the holiday. The mindset is vastly different.
That isn’t the case with Thanksgiving. Celebration of Thanksgiving is shamelessly Hedonistic and gluttonous. It’s kind of awesome, and I know many people whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
Last year, when I self-published my futuristic short story Your Huddled Masses, I thought about how to frame a scenario in such a way that my readers could understand the mindset of the people. Most, if not all of us, have fond memories of Thanksgiving. Drawing comparisons to the holiday was my way to weave a thread of familiarity through the setting and all of the events taking place so readers can relate in their own personal way.
Your Huddled Masses is a story about an America that has willingly accepted a virtual existence with endless consumption and Hedonism with very few (if any) consequences. Is it America turning away from its traditional values, or an extension of American culture adapting to new technology?
I published this story almost exactly a year ago, just before Thanksgiving 2011 for this very reason. While it isn’t the most popular, Keith is one of my favorite characters and the story is my personal favorite of everything I’ve written.
If you would like to read it, here you go.
Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!
(This was originally posted in tumblr “On the Future” here.)