Betty Kent suggested that I write something about Thanksgiving because we seem to forget the holiday and all our blessings.
“We’ve got a lot to be thankful for in Columbia County,” she said. “We’ve got a good place to live, and we’ve been spared from all these bad storms.”
To me, that’s one of the best things about Thanksgiving: It reminds us to take stock of what’s good in our lives. It does seem a little sad, though, that we are quick to complain about virtually everything, yet it takes a holiday to force us to express the slightest amount of gratitude.
In general, we seem to feel so good about Thanksgiving that one of our greatest laments isn’t that we have too little to be thankful for, but that the singularly American holiday seems to get shoved aside, as Halloween decorations segue directly into Christmas displays in the stores.
Think about it: The main reason your Thanksgiving Day newspaper weighs roughly the same as a Toyota Corolla isn’t because we’re packing so much gratitude into it; it’s because retailers are fighting for reader’s eyeballs to entice them into stores for Christmas sales.
The expansion of “Black Friday” should be a warning. Major retailers already are encroaching backward, opening Thursday evening instead of Friday morning. That trend will continue until you’ll find yourself having Thanksgiving breakfast while standing in line at Walmart.
That’s really what puzzles us about Thanksgiving. It isn’t that it’s ignored in favor of its Halloween and Christmas bookends; it’s that marketers haven’t yet discovered how to over-commercialize it.
Retailers have fully exploited Halloween. Adults celebrate the holiday and spend more on themselves than for children. And Christmas years ago became an orgy of consumerism. We occasionally pause to remember its true purpose just long enough to complain sanctimoniously about a phony “war” on it, often while we’re standing in line at Walmart pushing a buggy groaning under the weight of impulse purchases.
And right around the corner? Easter, where we’ll be encouraged to spend too much on new clothes and buy candy for children who already are so fat they embarrass Honey Boo Boo’s mom, and hold egg hunts that have turned into greed-races where children sprint across open fields scattered with candy to see who can shovel the most into their baskets.
All this to honor the salvation of mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so we could indulge in gluttony.
Scattered amongst all these holidays are St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, along with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, all of which have their own shopaholic (or alcoholic) marketing geared toward them.
And then there’s Thanksgiving,when families get together and express gratitude. How novel.
It comes down to this: Among all the things we have to be thankful for, perhaps one we should put at the top of the list is that Thanksgiving thus far has resisted exploitation.
When they finally figure it out, we’ll wish it could go back to quietly being hidden between other holidays.