In 11 days we will celebrate what is to me the most important holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. Thankfully, Thanksgiving has not yet been commercialized like so many other holidays although some businesses from car dealers to furniture stores insist on having Thanksgiving sales all month. Nonetheless, none of the foolishness that accompanies things like “Black Friday,” Labor Day Sales, Fourth of July sales and Memorial Day sales has managed to spoil the one day of the year when we all should gather and say “thanks.” Once we rid ourselves of the faulty and false notions about Pilgrims and Puritans and realize that no one celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday until president Lincoln declared is as such in 1863, we can get down to the serious business of saying thanks. We could except that it looks as though both big businesses and retailers have decided to skip this holiday. My wife and I like to do a few things to “celebrate” Thanksgiving. Some of that includes giving a few season specific gifts to friends and neighbors.
Oftentimes we would have some of our own fall apples along with some little gifts we could find in late summer or early fall. This year a hard spring frost made giving our own apples impossible so we had to visit some farm markets in the area to find them. We especially like Cortland both for their taste and crisp texture but even more for the fact that once cut or sliced they do not turn brown. We made a trip to Ligonier in September since our younger son had a showing of many of his Pittsburgh photographs in a gallery there. The same gallery had some one-of-a-kind items that Ann and I knew some friends would like, and a quick stop in an antique gallery nearby had a few other items that would make nice gifts. It was a good thing we planned ahead because last week we went shopping for some “fall”or Thanksgiving things to go with what we had. Nothing. We found a few cards that mentioned the holiday but did not seem to reflect a real feeling of giving thanks.
Nothing that really looked like fall, no scenes of colored leaves or autumn fields. Ann likes to put things like the apples, a kitchen towel, maybe some homemade jelly or canned fruit or whatever things we have found in a small gift bag. After visiting three different stores, none of them had gift bags suitable for Thanksgiving. Even the clerks in one of the stores agreed that their company pays little attention to Thanksgiving. That set me to wondering. And since there is so much more I don’t know than what I do know, wondering comes easily. So I wondered what happened to Thanksgiving. Could it be that businesses have learned that Thanksgiving does not make a big profit? Other holidays have connections to either religion or patriotism. Whether we like it or not, Christmas is primarily a Christian holiday even if early Christians borrowed it from others. Other holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July are first and foremost patriotic days. Businesses can promote them without any backlash because no one would ever think about skipping a celebration or not spending money for a Fourth of July picnic. Thanksgiving is different. What was once a special day set aside to give thanks for all that we enjoy has now become more of a nuisance day before Black Friday. In the past few years many stores have even gone so far as to open their doors on Thanksgiving to get a head start on the Christmas selling season.
That may be the other reason that we pay so little attention to Thanksgiving, squeezed as it is between to other very profitable days, Halloween and Christmas. I would hate to guess how much money Americans spend on Halloween, a day that once saw kids in homemade costumes going from door to door in their own neighborhood. I know there was a time when the neighbors would ask a lot of questions as they “guessed” about the identity of the ghosts and goblins who rang their doorbells.
Each stop may have taken up to five minutes before the hosts would hand out a cookie, a candy bar or an apple. Not so now. The kids appear, adults open the door, and hand out the treats. It looks as though kids think they are entitled to a treat, no matter what. Christmas? We have all seen how the “season” has grown from a sacred religious holiday that covered maybe a week or two before December 25, to the major shopping event of the year. We routinely hear that stores depend on Christmas for as much as half their annual profit. I saw decorations, cards, and “sales” for Christmas as early as two weeks before Halloween. With all that attention, is it any wonder that Thanksgiving is almost forgotten, and that is a shame. What should be a time to gather family and friends to give thanks for our many blessings has become a bump on our road to commercialism. And what does that say about us? Maybe this year we can all take one whole day to just stop and say “Thank You” for all we have and make Thanksgiving important again.