It’s that time of year once again, time for families to gather ‘round the big ol’ dining room table adorned with side dishes a-plenty, as the family matriarch brings in a massive stuffed turkey slathered in steaming gravy. Then the old man will rise and carve the great bird, dishing out plates to be passed from old to young. After which, a great sprawling indolence will commence.
Such has been the tradition in this country for decades, a tradition of feasting and thanking and feasting some more. But in the last few years, a new tradition has started to emerge… a tradition that involves hastening our the door at an unseemly hour to do battle along the shopping aisles for ridiculous markdowns on overpriced commercial goods.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these holiday “Grinches” bemoaning the creeping commercialism of the holiday, appealing to a simpler time when families would… well, do the exact thing we’re doing right now. Yeah, that’s right, I said it: there was rampant commercialism back in the good old days.
Granted, there weren’t 24-hour supercenters (and the occasion was nowhere near the spectacle it has become) but my grandmother assures me back then people also spent money they didn’t have on things they didn’t need to impress people they didn’t like.
But what of the people who have to work these holidays? Well, this ain’t communist China. If you don’t like working on holidays, you may want to steer clear of retail and/or the service industry as a career choice.
I’ve got friends and family who work in both, and they get it — it’s just like any other line of work, there’s perks and drawbacks. People have been working holidays for as long as there have been holidays and people.
And what of family time? Well, I have it on pretty good authority that many families load up and shop together alongside their loved ones. I’m sure it makes dodging the other Walmartians a lot easier to know that some kinfolk has got your back.
Besides, once you’ve gathered together, thanked the Lord for the food, devoured one too many plates, watched the Detroit Lions get the Stove Top kicked out of ‘em up and down the field, what’s the harm in heading out and seeing if you can score a lousy tie for the ol’ man or a new electronic gadget for the kids?
I know many of my colleagues “of the cloth” are concerned about whether the deep spiritual meaning of the holiday is being lost in the shuffle. Well, friends, that ship has sailed. There is nothing intrinsically Christian about the American holiday of Thanksgiving. If nothing else, our behavior reflects this sad fact. Though we are, as Christians, called to live lives of perpetual thanksgiving, there’s is nothing significant about the fourth Thursday in November that we should venerate it as a holy day.
Sure, the day finds its origins in a 1795 proclamation for a “day of public thanksgiving” signed by George Washington and attesting, “the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” But very little that follows in the subsequent centuries bears much resemblance to the day we now hold. In fact, our modern observance finds its origins in 1941 with a resolution signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt — fixing the date in an effort to spur commerce as the nation remained mired in the Great Depression.
Thus, to celebrate Thanksgiving by eating and being merry, then hitting the roads to “shop ‘til you drop” is not just seasonally appropriate, but it is your patriotic duty. Go America, heck yeah!
So to those of you who will hurriedly wolf down your turkey and dressing, before dashing out the door to brave the early Winter chill, the mad dash of traffic, and the long lines. Yes, friends, I wish you Godspeed. I pray for safe travels and happy hunting. May you find many deals, and post many photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram of all the various oddities you encounter.
I, on the other hand, will enjoy the spectacle from the safe vantage of my home and hearth. I will toast your triumphs with a warm mug of eggnog (or “butterbeer” if I’m lucky), occasionally clicking “Like” at the madness, all from the cozy confines of my family’s loving embrace.