An ode to the mathematics of Thanksgiving
Explaining Thanksgiving to a race of alien beings would be impossible. It is as difficult as an ancient Roman explaining to us precisely why this particular breed of bull is so important to blood sacrifice on this particular day, at this particular altar, facing a particular direction. To explain this strange incongruous ritual, we must ask: What is the purpose of Thanksgiving?
Oh, being thankful, obviously. The stated reason. But really? The food, of course! This isn’t that hard. We all know it. The true raison d'être of the holiday is to sit down with friends and family at a towering table of food that seems limitless. This is the purpose of Thanksgiving, compared to other holidays: to create a situation that feels, in its entirety, inexhaustible. While bountiful Christmas may parcel out presents, even if these are great in number (perhaps especially if they are great in number) the gifts seem imminently exhaustible, and all the piles at everyone’s feet get smaller over time and eventually vanish. Compare such feeble finitude to the mighty infinity of Thanksgiving.
For at the conclusion of Thanksgiving you should be as overstuffed as Hilbert’s hotel: an inn with infinite rooms, fully occupied by infinite guests. Yet, when more guests arrive at Hilbert’s hotel, although it already has an infinite number of guests, the newcomers can paradoxically find empty rooms to fit in as well. So too with a proper Thanksgiving gullet.