Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Considering the "Holiday Season" // Beginning

The increasingly inescapable connection between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the pathological consumption cycle known as “Christmas shopping” makes me surly.
- Robert Jensen, I'm The Guy Who People Think Hates Thanksgiving 
Last year I was glad to be hopping on a plane on Thanksgiving Day, primarily because I was looking forward to visiting Cambodia again, and secondarily because I was glad to be away from the holiday cheer/shopping sprees/festivities I've felt increasingly disconnected from. I love seeing family and friends, I love enjoying copious amounts of food and drink with them, and I confess that a winter is not complete without watching It's A Wonderful Life at least once, but I have always been uncomfortable with the "holiday season" in a number of ways, for a number of reasons.

From a very young age, I worried about whether my immigrant family did American things "the right way," making all holidays a source of anxiety. Whether it was buying cards and candy for friends on Valentine's Day, making gift packages for Christmas, or the way we gathered to eat turkey, potatoes, and stuffing on Thanksgiving, I was critical of the ways that my family did things differently than the images on television. There were elements of race, class, and religion in all of this. I felt my family caught between trying to maintain Khmer culture and traditions, while also trying to keep me from feeling left out as a kid born in America.
Thinking critically about Thanksgiving is not an attack on the family. I believe our families (biological and chosen) are stronger when we learn together and when we work together to create a world we want to live in.- Beja, The Last Thursday in November
Now that I am older and have a more critical view of these holidays because of their ties to capitalism, labor abuses, and glossing over history, how do I continue to engage with my loved ones? Though I may not want to support and reinforce certain holidays, I also want to take opportunities to spend time with people who otherwise have to spend much of their time working.

It's going to take a while to organize these thoughts in some coherent fashion. 

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