Little steps toward Thanksgiving

I really wish I knew who to credit for this quote because it is spot on.

Only in America can we show our gratitude for the things we have on Thursday; then spend Friday in a mad dash to get more.

It is unbelievable that this whole week we will have buildup, not to Thanksgiving, but to the day after (I try not to use the popular name). Thanksgiving is simply Turkey Day and is relegated to warmup status for the real holiday, which seems to celebrate greed. In fact, as I have watched TV I have seen very little to inspire a sense of thanksgiving; rather, popculture wants to talk about football and sales. Who is playing on Thursday and what will that mean for playoff positions; where can you get the best deals and what will this weekend mean for the economy. Very little is said about celebrating gratitude with friends and family. I wish I could simply write this off as TV trying to gain views, sell advertising, and make money; sadly, I have found this is not the case. I have been talking to people over the last couple of weeks, asking them if they were excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas. The majority of people I talked with were not excited about the Holy-days.

What’s wrong?

Why do people have such a hard time celebrating Thanksgiving and why is there such emphasis on getting more? The short answer is that we as a society do not know how to give thanks. When I have asked people why they do not want to celebrate the Holy-days, they generally respond saying they do not have much to celebrate (it has been a rotten year), or, they do not want to celebrate with family (they have unresolved issues). It is very difficult to celebrate when we are in conflict with those closest to us, or, do not seem to measure up with where we want to be. In other words, many are celebrating Thanksgiving because they feel like they have to participate, not because they are really thankful. This of course also explains some of the focus on TV; people observe Thanksgiving because it is on the calendar, but, they really want to participate in the distraction of football or the greed of sales.

Little steps

I think there are several little steps that people can and should take to help us celebrate Thanksgiving. It is hard to get from dreading Thanksgiving to celebrating it in one drought, but little changes can help.

  1. Slow down- Everything about holidays in our society is rushed, cramped, and crowded; we seem to think enjoyment comes with packing as much as possible into the tightest window. We try to experience everything and end experiencing nothing. To truly enjoy a Holy-day like Thanksgiving, we must first slow down and realize what we are thankful for. From year to year there will be more or less to be thankful for, but, there is always something. Take a few minutes and reflect on the previous year, look at your life in gratitude. I would say thinking of the blessings in your life, but, many people are pessimists and will not see their blessings. Instead, look around, saying I have food, shelter, loved ones maybe not much of any of these, but, they are here and I can appreciate them. Blessings are sometimes small and easily overlooked we need to slow down to find them all.
  2. Opt out-I love REI Outfitter’s #optoutdoors campaign, and frankly will love it more if they do not see increased sales and continue it next year. REI is trying to move away from the anger and frustration that is concentrated around shopping centers the day after Thanksgiving. Instead they want people to go outdoors and focus on the beauty in nature. In a previous post I argued that Christians cannot get caught up in how the secular society celebrates its holiday season, but, must celebrate Christmas. The same is true of anyone who wants to celebrate Thanksgiving. We all want to imagine we live in a Norman Rockwell painting, but, that simply is not the case (though some of us do). This desire leads to disappointment with the reality. Rather, those who find it difficult to celebrate Thanksgiving need to opt out of all the traditional celebrations. Start small, find the one or two people you care about and plan the day around celebrating with them. The trappings of a traditional American Thanksgiving are not important; the important thing is that the people can truly be thankful for one another. Focus on making Thanksgiving a special day, a time where you and loved ones can truly be thankful, work to take away the stress. If the big dinner stresses you, instead of cooking turkey, order wings the day before and warm them up in the oven, it is more important THAT you celebrate than HOW. For those who spend Thanksgiving with people they have disagreements with, focus on making interactions with those people as loving as possible. Try to remember you are in the same room with the person because love has connected you in some way, and even if it is only out of respect for someone else, try to minimizing conflict.
  3. Thanksgiving is an act of will not a feeling- Many say I do not feel thankful, a mindset that helps play into the greed of Friday. We expect that we should have the warm fuzzy emotions of holidays, without realizing that these emotions can only come after one has truly celebrated, not before. Many expect the day of Thanksgiving to produce true thanksgiving, with the corresponding love and warmth. When this does not happen these individuals become cold to the celebration because they see it as false and turn to accumulating possessions to find happiness. I can celebrate Thanksgiving because I have taken little steps toward thanksgiving. I have made conscience decisions to grow closer to my family; and I look forward to extended time with them. I give thanks for the food I have each day, so I am especially thankful for the meal on Thanksgiving, even if it is not perfect. I try to be thankful for each day I wake up (especially when I wake up healthy); so I can be extra thankful for a day when I have very little work and extra play. I can celebrate Thanksgiving only as much as I put effort into living a life of thanksgiving each day.
  4. Linger in the moment- This goes along with the first point of slowing down. A person who resolves to linger in Thanksgiving truly celebrates thanksgiving. Many people are upset about stores being opened on Thanksgiving and are signing pledges not to shop. Honestly, shopping on Thanksgiving does not cross my mind, I am too distracted by what I am doing, even if that is lounging listening to others play and talk. Someone lingering in Thanksgiving will not be terribly worried about the sales going on. Even when I have gone to the Friday sales, my philosophy is that if the thing I want is gone, oh well, I do not need it. My life does not revolve around getting an item at a slightly reduced price, I am thankful for what I have.

So many in our culture cut Thanksgiving short to go shopping, then wonder why their lives are unhappy. How sad, Thanksgiving is a wonderful event, we need to take the time to truly enter into an attitude of thanksgiving. It is time for us to celebrate Thanksgiving like we mean it.

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