What Happened to Thanksgiving?

The question struck a nerve. Will I forego family to shop? I shook my head as I pondered people actually struggling with this dilemma. The choice of celebrating Thanksgiving with family and loved ones or shopping and saving a few bucks is a no-brainer. I do not care if I am offered a 90% discount. Money and sales cannot compare to the precious moments of time spent with family and loved ones.

As stores now increase their shopping extravaganza hours to include Thanksgiving– beginning before dawn, it is obvious that “Black Friday” now occurs on a Thursday and has now replaced Thanksgiving. “Black Thursday” does not have that cozy feeling and ring like Thanksgiving. Also, when we jump from Halloween to Christmas, we ignore Advent–which is the coming of Christmas and the anticipation that accompanies it. Counting down the days until Christmas on an Advent Calendar used to be tradition. We did not get lost in the hustle and bustle of shoppers and their stress…we got lost in the peace of the preparation and festivities of a warm, relaxing day.

When we opt to shop instead of celebrate with family, we cheat other family members of memories, pictures and love that they will cherish one day when loved ones are no longer with them. The day may come when all of us wish we could have just one more Thanksgiving Day with our parents or grandparents. What a comfort it would be to hear their voices one more time. Time and memories become more important as we age. In fact, reminiscing is emotionally healthy. None of us have an endless supply of days and tomorrow is not promised to anyone. There is not a trinket, piece of jewelry or bargain that could ever be valued as much as family.

The memories and images of past Thanksgivings will sustain us through the difficult days. I find myself being thankful for past holidays. There were some amazing Thanksgivings that I will always cherish. They happened because family slowed down and relaxed, carefully prepared and focused on their blessings. They did not focus on what they just had to have or would later purchase. They had the capability to be immersed in the moment. In the present. Nothing should ever be given the power to diminish the love and strength of family, that a Thanksgiving holiday represents. Certainly not a department store’s circular of super ads… It is a sure bet that today’s children who are “forced” to endure a Thanksgiving meal, who will display or learn manners, hear of the events in their relatives’ lives and who put down the cell phone and other high-tech gadgets, will one day be grateful. Thanksgiving Day can obviously be a great teacher that will be remembered. This education- like most, is priceless.

Fleeing the Thanksgiving table, fighting traffic and crowds and saving money is a matter of choice. When we dismiss Thanksgiving though, we are sending a message to children and grandchildren about our priority. It describes us. There is absolutely nothing like sitting around the family table, saying grace, acknowledging blessings, the laughter of loved ones and the feeling of love. We can save a few dollars tomorrow. Don’t worry, the department stores and malls will still be there, attempting to entice us from what is really important. They will still take our money.

Can’t be near family on Thanksgiving? There are many reasons why this could happen, including financial crunches, distance, illness and others. Call to say I love you, send a card or gift and pray for loved ones. Sometimes it is just nice to know someone is thinking of us. Another neat thing to do is to volunteer for a Social Service organization. There is nothing like giving your time and energy to others at missions, churches, etc. Visit a lonely, elderly person or invite someone who is homeless for dinner. If you are feeling particularly down, create a “Blessings List” of the many things that make you rich – it can include the simplest things as clean sheets to the grandest such as having heat in your car this winter or praising God for your Cancer healing. When you see all of the blessings listed, you will realize you truly are rich.

Yesteryear, Thanksgiving had absolutely nothing to do with the greed of employers or employees being forced to leave their families to work jobs that qualify them for Public Assistance. So, if you dine out on Thanksgiving, be sure to give a generous tip to your waitperson. After all, depending on where they reside and their employer, some waitpersons earn in the vicinity of a mere $2.13 to $5.00 an hour and are struggling to raise families. Some are working two jobs with erratic days and hours, as they attempt to pay daycare costs. Yet, they still receive Public Assistance. These employees have no medical insurance because their employers give them too few hours to qualify. So, be kind.

Sometimes, we have to step outside of ourselves and create memories for those around us. This is just what my family did and I am thankful. Thanksgiving was a huge deal! So was Christmas! We were woven with honor and respect for tradition. Stores did not open, they closed. Sometimes we were blanketed in snow…and always blanketed in love. We made time for the little things and traveled distance as in “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.” The real meaning of Thanksgiving was the focus. It was as if the world was serene and stood still…for just a day.

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