Deaf Thanksgiving: A New Tradition

It is with great pleasure I would like to introduce to you an exciting new concept: Deaf Thanksgiving. Actually, it's not new; we've been doing this on and off for a few years. It's so much fun that I strongly feel it's time to make it an official holiday. We're doing it again this year only this time, we're going to spill the beans and hopefully turn this into a national Deaf-world tradition.

What the heck is Deaf Thanksgiving, you want to know? Okay, here's how we do it:

First, on the regularly scheduled Thankgiving, be with your family. Come on, they're your family. They love you and you love them (at least I hope so). I know it's embarrassing when Uncle Howie gets rip-roaring drunk and passes out face-first in the cranberry sauce. I know it's awkward when Uncle Walter and Aunt Helen bicker during their annual re-enactment of Kramer versus Kramer. And I know there's this weird family dynamic thing where no matter how old you are, you still regress to a helpless 8-year-old in the presence of your parents or other senior relatives. The holidays can be stressful, folks.

And then there's another aspect of the holidays that causes even more stress for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere: The Dinner Table Syndrome. Yes, we've all been there. The hapless deaf guy sits at a table surrounded by hearing relatives who don't sign. The clock goes tick... tock... tick... tock... at mind-numbing slow speed.

It is in this environment where deaf/HOH folks repeatedly prove that Einstein's Theory of Relativity is correct. It feels like you've been sitting there for three hours when in reality it's only been twenty minutes.

Note: If you have a deaf family or a hearing family that knows sign language, wonderful. Or, if you've hired ASL interpreters to facilitate communication, that's fine and dandy too. You might not need the kind of Deaf Thanksgiving I'm about to offer below. Then again, it is my belief that all families, deaf or hearing, are dysfunctional to one extent or the other (see Uncle Howie a few paragraphs back). You might want to read on nonetheless.

Whatever your situation may be, family is family. They get first dibs so by all means, hang out with them first and give them all a big hug.

Now, are we ready to party? It's time for Deaf Thanksgiving.

The next step in our brilliant plan is to take the next day off. You've earned it.

True fact: In the past, we've had Deaf Thanksgiving on the day after regular Thanksgiving. It's fun, but no one wants to look at a turkey again so soon after pigging out the day before.

And now, the third and most important step: on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, have a gathering with as many of your closest deaf and hard of hearing friends as possible. Hearing folks who sign and are thus "Honorary Deaf" are of course welcome, too.

You don't even need turkey for Deaf Thanksgiving. In fact, this year we're having a spaghetti dinner. Who cares? The important thing is that our good friends -- our signing, totally accessible, so comfy to hang out with, so-easy-to-chat-with-that-we-could- yak-until-four-a.m. friends -- are all together and thankful for each other's company.

We've done this quite a few times and it's a real treat. If you find yourself wanting the same thing, go ahead and do it. In fact, let's go ahead and make it an official holiday. From hereon, I declare the first Saturday after Thanksgiving to be DEAF THANKSGIVING!

And here's what I'm thankful for on Deaf Thanksgiving:

  • Deaf friends I can relate to.
  • A sense of belonging.
  • Effortless, accessible, and enjoyable conversation.
  • Aforementioned conversation can go deep. Real deep.
  • My kids, and my friends' kids, get to see that ASL is indeed a beautiful language.
  • If anyone does break out into an argument a la Uncle Walter and Aunt Helen, the rest of us can understand every word and enjoy the show (popcorn, anyone?).
  • Real-time laughter. No I'll tell you later -- or even worse, never mind.
  • The unmistakable feeling that deafness is not a disability. In other words...
  • Yes, Virginia, there is a Deaf culture.

Now go out there and enjoy your Thanksgiving. Both of them.

Season's greetings,

Mark Drolsbaugh