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Yes Virginia, there is a Thanksgiving!

The holiday season is upon us. The malls and the stores are all decorated with their Christmas finery, and Santa is there greeting all the boys and girls.  Carols are playing and gingerbread is baking. The only issue is that it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.  

Every year it seems that merchants and advertisers are making the Christmas holiday season longer and more deliberately in your face. When I was growing up, the official Christmas shopping season did not begin until after Thanksgiving. The turkey was carved, and the trimmings were packed away in the refrigerator when the shopping lists would come out.

The first time we would see Santa was in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  He would be making his way to the department stores for all the good boys and girls to visit. In Philadelphia, Santa climbed a fire truck ladder into the Gimbels’ Department Store at the conclusion of the parade. This was the official start of the holiday season.

Now the Halloween candy and costumes are on the clearance rack, when the Christmas displays are going up in all the stores.  What happened to Thanksgiving? The holiday has been downgraded to a speed bump on the way to Mega Christmas. It seems like the pilgrims were just headed toward Plymouth Rock to make way for Santa.  The religious freedom they sought was really a mission to make sure the Native Americans had their “stockings hung by the chimney with care.”

I am certainly a huge fan of Christmas, and I love to decorate and celebrate the holiday season to the fullest, but let’s give Thanksgiving its time in the spotlight.
Take the Santa hat off the turkey and the twinkle lights off the pumpkin and celebrate the holiday for what it is. Thanksgiving was originally a time to celebrate a successful harvest, and to be thankful for the abundance in our lives.

It was the pilgrims who endured their journey here in difficult conditions, to settle in a new land where they could enjoy self-expression of their religious beliefs.  The pilgrims celebrated for three days sharing food with the Native Americans, and now we have a hard time focusing on the one Thursday in November.  There is plenty of time to bask in the glow of a winter wonderland, so stop to smell the gravy. 

Be thankful for the relationships we have with our families. Take the time to share the love with the special people in our lives, as we gather at the dinner table. Surround yourself with those that bring meaning and a purpose to our freedoms. Remember, it was about freedom of expression without persecution, so celebrate everyone’s individuality. It is about accepting everyone for who they are – whether they love turkey, tofu or want to make the turkey into a dress.

If your sitting down to holiday dinner and your Christmas tree is already glowing in the background, remind your children that this is Thanksgiving and not Black Friday Eve. Tell them that the Native Americans didn’t have pop-up tents that were set-up in the parking lot of Best Buy days before the first Thanksgiving celebration. 

It is important to remember our heritage, and to keep the traditions that our parents taught us back when Thanksgiving wasn’t stuffed into Christmas like the dressing inside the turkey. As we grow older and have only memories of those we hold dearest in our lives, we realize to take each day and make it count. Don’t rush the holiday season. Take each moment and make it special. Give thanks and spread love, before you think of rushing to the mall on Thursday evening. In fact, let the retailers celebrate Thanksgiving too if they can remember that it is an official holiday.

Wait until Friday before you start making Christmas plans. Your Thanksgiving meal should not be warming over the engine of your car as you clip coupons in the parking lot of Walmart. That merchandise will be there, and there will be ample time to buy those things you want to give as gifts. The thing you can’t buy is the time you have to spend with your loved ones. That is the most valuable part of any holiday, so make sure you don’t forget Thanksgiving. It really is a great holiday unto itself. It is not just a prologue to Christmas.


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