A toasty home, sheltering the inhabitants from the biting chill just beyond the door. Relatives cracking jokes and pretending to like each other for at least one day. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, rolls and obligatory vegetables lining the stove and countertop, with chocolate pie, fudge, marble cheesecake, pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies smothering the countertop beside the refrigerator. Toddlers, rolling and giggling on the floor while gazing at Black Friday sales papers with hungry eyes. This is the epitome of Thanksgiving in 2011.
The children in the picture are my niece and nephew. The girl is 4, and the boy is 3. Their mother, my sister, sat cross-legged on my grandmother’s hardwood floor flipping through the myriad sales papers with intense interest while waiting for the meal to be ready. It would seem that her (and several other members’ of my family) apparent fixation with capitalism during the holidays has penetrated my young niece and nephew.
While I know that no one in my family is particularly materialistic, the young children have no reference point for what constitutes as pasttime or sincerity. They are learning by what they have seen, and what they were surrounded by on Thanksgiving was a group of eager consumers equating Christmas with stuff. It comes as little surprise to me that, in this picture, my niece is happily examining the paper, carefully scrutinizing each item, while my nephew scrambles toward her to see if he is missing out on any of the consumerism.
Children, as a whole, will understand Christmas to be mostly about gift-giving until they are old enough to see otherwise. But perhaps the hustle, bustle and pepper spraying that the day after Thanksgiving brings–all in the name of Christmas spirit, mind you–is doing more to contribute to this situation than it is to alleviating it.