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Thanksgiving

What Victor Hugo said about Thanksgiving shows that he was ahead of his time


Among a handful of quotes from famous authors about Thanksgiving, Victor Hugo’s is particularly poignant. Just one week before the holiday, the CDC had issued a clarion call against gatherings. We were to celebrate only at home, with the people in our household. Many of us viewed a long list of considerations and recommendations with disdain, and understandably so.

This year has brought about a sea-change in attitudes towards physical contact, which has been as short in supply as toilet paper during the early days of the pandemic. By the fourth quarter, we’ve been so starved of personal interaction that we’ve risked a reunion or two (or three).

Now, we’re being told to starve for a few more months—at least until after the vaccines have rolled out and we’ve done the necessary quarantine period. It’s more than enough torture for such social beings.

And yet even a 19th century Frenchman knew that gratitude need not be witnessed in person to be appreciated. Granted, Hugo did have a bit of a penchant for solitude, as you can see in Les Misérables:

In winter the thicket was black, dripping, bristling, shivering, and allowed some glimpse of the house. Instead of flowers on the branches and dew in the flowers, the long silvery tracks of the snails were visible on the cold, thick carpet of yellow leaves; but in any fashion, under any aspect, at all seasons, spring, winter, summer, autumn, this tiny enclosure breathed forth melancholy, contemplation, solitude, liberty, the absence of man, the presence of God; and the rusty old gate had the air of saying: “This garden belongs to me.”


Still, we can all take a leaf out of his book and try to be content with virtual socializing for now.

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you manage to give thanks in solitude?

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