What Happened to Thanksgiving?

As I was out and about yesterday, I saw it. A plastic Santa Claus in his sleigh pulled by plastic reindeer. It’s mid November, for Pete’s sake! The Halloween decorations haven’t been stored away long enough to collect dust yet. But here was a house already gearing up for a holiday that is six weeks away.

What happened to Thanksgiving???

Okay, I did see one lonely inflatable turkey on that same road. But it seemed dwarfed in comparison to the jolly old elf and his entourage. Thanksgiving gets no respect.

Why? I have some theories.

The original Thanksgiving revolves around the Native Americans and the pilgrims giving thanks for the harvest. But in this country today, how many people understand the importance of harvest anymore? Being a farm girl, I remember the relief in a full hay mow and grain bin. The silo filled with silage. The corn crib bulging with yellow ears. That’s field corn, folks. Not the sweet stuff you buy at a farmer’s market or the grocery store. This stuff is hard and feeds the livestock all winter long. I remember shelves of canned fruit and vegetables in the basement. While before my time, I remember stories of making sauerkraut and smoking hams.

Maybe the reason Thanksgiving has fallen to the wayside is because we’ve become an urban nation. Farms have become commercial endeavors rather than the source of food and income for a family. No one truly understands the concept of giving thanks for a harvest. Back a few decades, if the crops failed, there was no abundant harvest, not enough food for the family or the animals to make it through the winter, no income from excess sold or traded away. So a good harvest that meant a comfortable winter ahead was something to celebrate.

Now we go to the Giant Eagle whenever we want food. Any time of day, any time of year. What the heck is a harvest?

My other theory on the downfall of Thanksgiving as a holiday is sadder and more cynical and I hate to even consider it. But perhaps we’ve lost the ability to be thankful. Are we so presumptuous as to assume we’re going to get what we want when we want it? Are we so used to handing over a piece of plastic and coming home with all of our whims and desires in a shopping bag that we no longer can conceive of being appreciative for the things around us?

Is gratitude becoming extinct?

I hope not.

So, okay, here’re my thoughts on the week before Thanksgiving…don’t go out and buy plastic turkeys to stick in your yard. Instead, think about what’s in your life that you’re grateful for. Make a list. Add one or two things each day to that list. We’ll check back here next Thursday and compare. I’ll start: I’m grateful for a wonderful husband, a comfortable home that we own outright, two sweet furry little cats to cuddle. And news that my friend Mary Alice came through surgery for breast cancer with good lab results.

That’s reason to celebrate for sure.


mike said…
All good points, Annette. I kept thinking as I read your post that Thanksgiving has lost its identity not so much because Americans have lost touch with its agrarian roots--after all, the technology for frozen foods was perfected in the 20s, and mass production of canned goods came much earlier, so the urbanization of America has a long history--but rather because of an inability to feel or express gratitude. But you eventually got to that point, with which I agree wholeheartedly. With the country so awash in material goods and markets competing to offer the cheapest lettuce or rutabaga, well, I fear too many Americans assume all this "goodness" is their birthright, not something for which they need to be thankful.

BTW, I saw my first Christmas display in early October. Turned right around and walked out of that store!
Annette said…
Mike, don't even get me started on the retail thing. Hallmark stores bring out the Christmas ornaments as soon as the Fourth of July is over. And after too many years working retail, I'm immune to the store displays. It's the residential houses going from pumpkin lights to red and green ones that get me in a snit.
Kristine said…
Our local shopping plaza started putting up a Christmas tree in the parking lot the day BEFORE Halloween.

I'm afraid our dismissal of Thanksgiving has a lot to do with the retail industry pressuring us to start our Christmas shopping as early as possible. Gotta rack up those sales, ya know. Christmas has become such a chore that who was time to even notice Thanksgiving? (I don't feel that way, but it's the trend I'm noticing.)

It's a rule in my house to not even think about preparing for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. Time goes by fast enough, doesn't it?

As for what I'm thankful for, I have so many blessings: a loving husband, a comfortable home, food on the table, a dog that makes me appreciate the playful side of life, and most of all, having a career (Finally!) that allows for peace and sanity.

I'm also thankful for my wonderful writing buddies.
Susan said…
Yep, Kristine, I saw those two. Scary, huh?

Every year, I become more and more grateful that I'm not part of the Christmas buying season. Or any of the Christmas season -- I saw a woman putting up her lights today. She was there when I drove through the neighborhood on my way out, and she was there almost two hours later, when I came home.

Yep, grateful for THAT, too, all right.
Doris Dumrauf said…
My thoughts exactly! Thanksgiving has turned into the forgotten holiday. The reason is the retail industry that milks Christmas as early as they can. I now put a CD in my car to avoid the Christmas music on the radio. And I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving weekend. Being a writer has the advantage that I can do my little shopping during the week. And what do the stores have after Thanksgiving that they don't have now?
What I'm thankful for: my loving husband, a nice home, two furry cats that keep me warm on cold nights, and my writer friends who keep my spirits up. Years ago, when my husband and I pulled on the wishbone, guess what I wished for: to be published, of course! My wish has been granted quite a few times since then. Let's hope I keep it up!

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