"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Monday, November 12, 2012

What happened to Thanksgiving?

Hallowgivingmas is an actual word in the Urban Dictionary. It is the reality that in October you can purchase your Halloween costume, your napkins for Thanksgiving and your Christmas lights all at the same time in the same store. It is ridiculous and sad!
My husband and I used to LOVE Black Friday. The kids would stay at my mom's house, we would get up at 4:00 am and be at the store for the 5:00 am opening. The stores would have coffee & donuts for the "crazy" people waiting in line and we would meet some very interesting people while we waited. The reality is we never really bought much. We just really thought it was novel and fun to get up early and go shopping. Every once and awhile we would find a good deal (I purchased my first digital camera on Black Friday) - but in general it was just fun (we are both avid people watchers).
And then one year there were police cruisers in the parking lot (just in case). The coffee & donuts were gone. The people in line were now corralled around the store. The conversation was no longer friendly. Then there were the people who were trampled to death and pepper sprayed and the fighting (there is actually a webpage that ranks the most brutal Black Friday incidents)!  And the sales - well it was just junk they had not been able to sell the rest of the year. Then stores started opening at 4:00 am, then 2:00 am, then midnight. And this year they have all but eviscerated Thanksgiving: stores are opening at 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving beginning the new tradition of "Black Thursday!"
So what is the tradition of Thanksgiving anyway? Why do we celebrate this holiday in the first place?
I try not to think of the story of Thanksgiving as beginning with the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Because let's be honest, the Native Americans shared their farming techniques and their food, the Pilgrims shared Small Pox and thievery. But that is a story for another blog. For the purposes of this blog we will just talk about the American tradition of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving began as a religious holiday to thank God for a good harvest and and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  But states all celebrated on their own day and in their own way. Then in 1863, President Lincoln needed something to bring the nation together during the Civil War so he declared one national day of Thanksgiving - which would occur on last Thursday of November.
So, for 78 years people used the Thanksgiving holiday to be thankful - for a good harvest, for times of peace, for family, for friends. It was a holiday where no gifts were required. People shared food and good conversation. The change began in 1924 with the Macy's Christmas parade - which began as a way for employees to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season. And it changed completely in 1941 when Franklin Roosevelt changed the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November so that the Christmas shopping season could be a little longer. It was all downhill from there!
Go to a store today looking for Thanksgiving napkins and you are not likely to find them - they have been on clearance shelves for weeks at this point. Ask people what their plans are for Thanksgiving and it will likely have a reference to an early dinner before the shopping spree begins. What happened to being thankful for what we already have?
This of course is a blog about the bigger picture since we as a people seem incapable of being thankful for what we have. As technology moves faster and faster - as there is always a new generation of phone or tablet or video game, there is always something to stand in line for because the product we purchased 6 months ago is not good enough now.
But look closer and you will find pockets of thankfulness. People who are just happy to sit around a table with people they don't get to see as much as they would like. People who are thankful to have food to eat. People who are grateful to have one day a year to reflect on the good things that have happened since last Thanksgiving. My home is one of those pockets.
I am planning my Thanksgiving this week. The menu, the food shopping list, schedule of cooking. My husband and I may get up early on Friday and go shopping - but I refuse to go shopping on Thursday. I hold sacred the fact that this is the one day a year where we focus on family without distraction.
So happy Thanksgiving - however you choose to celebrate!


  1. Excellent post and so very true..we are also part of the thankful pocket, the 3 of us celebrating our little family..and I have never and will never shop on black Friday!! Or Thursday..crazy!!

  2. Here, here! I've always loved Thanksgiving for the simple fact that it's a no-hassle holiday... Show up, and eat! :) While this year will be a little more involved (I'm cooking dinner for the first time! Yikes!) I'm still looking forward to spending the day with a few of the people I care most about, and just enjoying the day, with nowhere to go, no job to go to (unbelievable with THREE!), no errands to run... It actually bothers me that any stores are open.... before, even if there were something that popped in my head that needed to be done, too bad! No place is open, I'm forced to stay inside and do nothing until tomorrow... But what happens now? With stores open, I'll feel compelled to do whatever, because the opportunity is there... Everyone should stay home, so I can stay home, capice?! ;) Not like any Black Friday sales are really worth the hassle......