Halloween is over. Colder temperatures have begun to set in. All the signs point to time to celebrate Christmas, right?
I say wrong.
Before I go any further, let me establish that this post is not about the militant commercialization of Christmas, or the insistence of the American populace and retail stores to push Christmas earlier every year, thereby dumbing down its intent and meaning. No, this post is about that one little thing between Halloween and Christmas that we’ve all forgotten: Thanksgiving.
While many of us rushed to our attics and garages on Nov. 1 for pre-lit Christmas trees and giant inflatable snow globes for our yards, there sat Thanksgiving. Quiet, unassuming Thanksgiving. The holiday that doesn’t ask you to give any more of yourself than a delicious meal shared with family and/or friends. Or if you don’t have family or friends to spend the day with, Thanksgiving just wants you to take a few minutes to reflect on the good things going for you or help someone in need. Thanksgiving, in its silent humility, wants to make you smile, help you relax and boost your self-esteem, often through giving to others.
Thanksgiving has become the forgotten holiday. How have we come to a point where we push aside and neglect a day that seeks to do nothing more than make us happy and give us the opportunity to make others happy? Instead, our culture insists on grabbing and snatching and running and elbowing for happiness mere moments after an early Thursday lunch (or, in some cases, forgoing a meal altogether).
And yes, I know historical inaccuracies in the traditional first Thanksgiving story we all grew up learning have come to light in recent years, as well as the political nature of Thanksgiving’s evolution. But that doesn’t change the fact that the very words “thanks” and “giving” mean more than soiled American history. In 2015, just as in 1621, giving thanks and giving others our time, our sweet potato casserole or our shoulder to lean on is precious.
No doubt you’ve heard by now that outdoor retailer REI will shutter on Black Friday, encouraging customers to spend time outdoors, a great activity to do with loved ones or alone to be thankful for the world’s natural beauty. Although some stores began last year refusing to open on Thanksgiving (which, in my opinion, is an excellent way to again neglect the holiday by simply combining it with the following day that people seem to consider more important and exciting), Ron Friedman, head of the retail and consumer products group at consulting firm Marcum LLP, told USA Today that no major retailer has given up Black Friday.
In a telling and disturbing comment, Friedman said, “Black Friday historically is the most important retail day of the year. It’s like a national holiday (emphasis added).”
As a consumer culture – and as an apathetic culture, even if consumerism doesn’t drive us during the holiday season – we’ve annexed Thanksgiving into Christmas as just another day on which we happen to be off work and possibly see people we only see twice a year. I began to wonder, “What else do we treat with as much flippancy as Thanksgiving?” In my musings, I personified Thanksgiving, feeling sorry for it. So to make my point, here’s a list of things we essentially say to Thanksgiving every year that would be horrendous if we said them to a child.
- Oh, it’s today? Sorry, I forgot. I was too busy planning your brother Christmas’ day.
- Okay, fine, I’ll play with you. But only until the game starts.
- I guess I’ll come since I’m off work anyway.
- No, we’re done. You stay here while we go buy ourselves unreasonably priced items masquerading as reasonably priced and pretend that we’re buying for everyone else.
- We just celebrated Halloween’s day and have got Christmas’ coming up. Are you sure you really want us to celebrate the whole day?
- I don’t understand why we’re here. Can you explain why you even wanted us to come?
- That’s enough! You’ve had your turn. Now, let Christmas continue his two and a half month long turn. He hasn’t had a turn for almost two hours.
- Stop being so selfish. Less than half a day of attention out of 365 days is more than enough. And I’d better not hear you complain in a leap year.
- Why do you even exist? Christmas is so much better.
- Maybe if you did something to prove I should love you, I would.
Please understand, I’m not knocking Christmas. I love Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with getting excited about decorating, buying or making gifts for the people you love or simply relishing in the religious meaning Christmas has for some of us. All I’m saying is, Thanksgiving is a holiday for relaxation, happiness and food. Slow down. Enjoy it, the middle child of the holiday season.