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Opinion: Forging a new Thanksgiving tradition

As a cancer survivor, I’m grateful for life. But now it must be more meaningful.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

There’s an adage that says a tradition that doesn’t change is a dead tradition. It’s a bit of a paradox — a tradition is something we do all the time, but if we don’t do it, it’s no longer a tradition.

If two rounds of successfully battling cancer have taught me anything, it’s that I’m grateful for my life and not for the semblance of meaningful traditions. So, here’s my new Thanksgiving tradition: I’m declaring my independence.

No. 1: Turkey is never good. It’s a mean, dry bird that tastes like chalk dipped in chicken fat. I’ll ask you this: Would you ever bake an entire turkey at a time other than the fourth Thursday in November? If the only reason we do it is because we’ve always done it, well, no more for me!

This year, the cranky bird lives and the twice-baked traditions die.

No. 2: I’m done watching all the overeating, the overstuffing with stuffing, mushy potatoes, overcooked beans and cranberry-based goop. Why do we do this? Why do we celebrate the Pilgrims’ miraculous survival by seeing if we can kill ourselves with carbohydrates? This year I’m binging on moderation. I’m cooking as much as I eat, and I’m eating until I’m almost full. Yes, I know I sound like a radical revolutionary. I’ll stake my position right here on this hill. I will not participate in the obsessive gorge!

No. 3: I’m liberating myself from my family! Or more like, I’m going AWOL from the all-female chain gang in the kitchen. My family is “traditional,” which means my mother and I spend 72 hours shopping, cooking, cleaning, shopping again and cleaning that up, too. The men? They watch football or claim eating all that food is hard work. Not this year. I’m breaking out of this dry and bitter bird cage!

I’m done. Or better yet, I’m free! Free of excess. Free of leftover chalk sandwiches. Free of obligation.

I’m forging my own traditions. On Thanksgiving morning, I’ll be clearing trails in a coastal island’s national park with my other liberated friends. How’s that for symbolism? I’m clearing the path for all of us Turkey Day dissidents. Think of me as the escaped slave in Plato’s “Republic” returning to the cave where the other slaves have been locked up their whole lives. I’m here to tell you — this is not all there is! There’s a whole world out there. We don’t have to subject ourselves to these ridiculous rituals. You can be free, too.

I’m calling it Thanksgiving Independence Day.

Now, there are surely people who actually like all the trappings and fixings of Thanksgiving. And those people will likely feel threatened that I’m coming for their bitter bird. To them, I say relax. If you’re happy with the things you do every year reflexively, then please feel free as well.

Unlike the Thanksgiving partisans, I won’t force any of my traditions on you.

But if you’re like me, and somewhere around August you begin to dread the Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving grocery shopping and resent the concept of marshmallows with tubers, then welcome to the resistance, my friend. Welcome to Thanksgiving independence.

Holly Lynch, a Manhattan native, is a civic organizer, activist and humanist.

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