Modern Thanksgiving Was Invented to Drive You Nuts

In a way, it has always been a celebration of stress

Livia Gershon
Forge
Published in
7 min readNov 15, 2019

--

Illustration: Dan Woodger

AAh, Thanksgiving. The day when families reunite, when the stuffing is just like grandma used to make, when everyone takes a much-needed break from work and school to count their blessings together.

Except, it’s t-minus two hours to when your guests arrive, the vegan and gluten-free sides are already competing for space on the stove with the old-school ones your aunt can’t do without, and your nephew, who’s supposed to be bringing the cranberry sauce, just texted to say he can’t make it after all because he needs to fill a shift for the Black Friday sale, which now starts Thursday.

When you take a break to check your phone, you see the magazine-worthy shots of intricate cookie turkeys your college roommate just posted to Instagram. You glance guiltily at the store-bought pumpkin pie on your own counter.

Wouldn’t it be great to return to a simpler, less stressful kind of Thanksgiving celebration?

Well, yes, if it ever existed. But while Thanksgiving has changed a lot over the decades, it’s always been a complicated, angsty affair. Let’s take a brief journey back through time to see how Thanksgiving became such a stressful hassle for so many of us.

The perfect-looking turkey is a myth

First stop: present day. Social media infiltrates every aspect of our lives, and with it comes the urge to document every important event with publicly posted photos. It’s a particularly unfortunate impulse on Thanksgiving, when a lot of traditional dishes, like mashed potatoes and stuffing, don’t make for super appetizing photos.

Even your most appealing shot of your turkey is probably a far cry from something out of a glossy cookbook — and for good reason. Professional food photographers often go to great and horrifying lengths to get the image they’re looking for, including slathering a turkey in shoe polish to achieve that perfect golden brown. Achieving something that looks beautiful on Facebook is a whole different project than making something that smells and tastes delicious, and trying to do both at once means a lot more work, often toward an impossible end.

--

--

Livia Gershon
Forge
Writer for

Freelance writer: Longreads, The Guardian, Quartz, Aeon, Boston Globe, Vice, JSTOR Daily, etc. liviagershon@gmaiI, liviagershon.com