Celebrating our united state
Gathering with friends and family takes on increased importance in the wake of recent events. Thanksgiving 2001 is once again all about giving thanks.
Greg Mowery's Thanksgiving table is all set. The silver has been polished, china plates set out, and crystal goblets cleaned to a fresh sparkle. But, much as the New York cookbook publicist likes the finer things in life, they are simply accessories to an occasion he feels is more important than ever this year.Skip to next paragraph
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The real stars at his table will be several close friends, who, like Mr. Mowery, are also single New Yorkers. In recent years, Mowery had given up hosting to "hire myself as the perfect Thanksgiving guest," but this year he felt compelled to put out the welcome sign once again.
"One of the things that struck me after the attacks of Sept. 11," he says, "is that single people all over the country were probably feeling more lonely. There was nobody around to give them a reassuring hug and tell them everything was going to be OK."
So his guests, two men and four women, can count on plenty of hugs. They will also start the meal with a reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "How to Live Well," and listen to American songs by Aaron Copland, especially "Simple Gifts."
An avid cook who usually likes to pull out all the stops for a party, Mowery is planning a more modest meal than usual.
"I'm cutting down on dishes, not because I'm lazy, but because I think it's a good idea to simplify so we can concentrate on what brought us to this celebration in the first place," he says. "All the dishes I serve will be old, familiar, and well-loved foods that I've served for years. I think tradition will have more meaning than ever before."
Mowery is typical of many Americans, who, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, are tweaking their Thanksgiving plans by making an extra effort to connect with family or friends, putting another leaf in their holiday tables to include those who would otherwise be alone, or simply placing more emphasis on the spirit and history of the holiday than on the turkey and trimmings. For many, this year's Thanksgiving will have a more poignant, heartfelt quality than in years past.
"What fell down on Sept. 11," says the Rev. Peg Stearn, minister at the First Congregational Church in Amherst, Mass., "is our fast-paced life. There was a rush toward acquiring that blinded us to so many of the realities of everyday life. We are now more aware of our need to take care of one another. For me, a greater awareness of the fragility of life is not only about people dying in the twin towers and the Pentagon, but about the need to be more sensitive to those suffering from homelessness, abuse, or other crises of life."
Ms. Stearn will celebrate a low-key Thanksgiving in North Carolina with her father, a widower. "He would have been all alone," she says. "It means a lot to him that I'm flying down there."
She recalls a conversation she once had with a "pilgrim" reenactor at Plymouth, Mass. "I asked him what he was going to do for Thanksgiving, and he said that was when 'we go into the meetinghouse and spend the day in prayer.'
"It was mind-boggling," she says, adding, "I think that's in a sense what's going on today. We're going back to our ancient roots. Thanksgiving isn't about football or going to the mall. It's about family and friends and gratitude and prayer."
For some people, focusing more on the spirit of Thanksgiving has meant breaking from tradition. Bostonian Christie Clark, for example, has already eaten her turkey. To avoid traveling during the busy holiday weekend, her four grown children and a handful of friends flew to her parents' home in St. Louis to celebrate Thanksgiving on the first weekend of November.