Take Back Thanksgiving!
I had to laugh when I stopped by my local Target at 8am on Halloween morning to pick up more candy, and a zealous worker was already removing the candy and replacing it with boxes of Christmas lights.
By the next morning the Halloween candy was half priced right next to a sign that read, "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas."
It's hard enough living in southeast Florida this time of year where we're still wearing shorts and flip flops. Our first year here the Christmas parade involved Santa in a convertible wearing a Hawaiian shirt surrounded by flame throwers.
Having been born and raised in New England, I remember when the fall season used to look something like this:
Halloween: Preceded by apple picking and hayrides, Halloween was defined by candy, door-to-door trick-or-treating, and costumes where we might be wearing a snowsuit or shorts depending on fickle weather at that time of the year.
Thanksgiving: It's what we started looking forward to on Nov. 1st-- when the fall leaves revealed lots of orange, yellow, and brown colors, and when we high school marching band peeps had to figure out how to fit wool under our uniform and be careful that our cold metal instruments didn't freeze to our lips as we marched in formation through the first snow of the season. It's when we made handmade place cards and weird crafts about something called a "Cornucopia" and talked about who and what we were thankful for. It's when we remembered why we loved our family (even the crazy ones) because we were all gathered together with a house full of people and we talked, laughed, and watched football. And we spent hours making a meal that took like three minutes to consume.
Does anyone remember this day?
THEN - the day AFTER Thanksgiving, a few insane family members might go shopping Friday afternoon, and we all turned our eyes to Advent. Sometimes the tree would even go up on the weekend right after Thanksgiving. This was a stretch, but acceptable.
I remember growing up that Christmas was built off of Thanksgiving. It was natural to turn our eyes to the birth of Jesus, because our hearts were full of gratitude. All of the trees, lights, presents, and everything seemed to point toward the Reason for the Season.
Now Thanksgiving has virtually become a holiday speed bump on the on-ramp to the Christmas shopping season.
Thanksgiving is now essentially Black Friday Eve. The big news this year is that some stores are choosing NOT to open on Thanksgiving. WHAT? I remember the day when they were all totally closed--because Thanksgiving was a holiday. But now you can avoid the crowds on Black Friday by standing in line at midnight because technically the Thanksgiving holiday is now just a kickoff to Christmas shopping.
So here's what I propose:
TAKE IT BACK.
TAKE BACK THANKSGIVING.
This is not an anti-commercialism post. (Although, I do think there are some better ways to show our kids love beyond the flat screen we bolted from the Thanksgiving dinner table to go buy.)
- Let's stop for a moment to toss a football in the backyard after the Thanksgiving meal and breathe in the fall air. (Yeah, I have no idea what that is here in south Florida, but you get my drift.)
- Let's stop and not merely say thank you, but revel in being thankful.
- Let's bring the family together, eat way too much food and laugh until we cry.
- Or...Let's round up some friends and gather together and ask everyone to help with the food.
- Or...Let's go out and serve somewhere--volunteer time to reach out to people who don't have any food or a home to gather in.
Thanksgiving is not about putting on the perfect meal, or having the perfect family or one specific way to celebrate.
Thanksgiving is about pausing in gratitude and giving thanks for who and what is in our lives. It is not about buying more stuff.
We indulged on candy in October THEN we turn towards giving thanks in November. This Thanksgiving-thing helps us prepare our hearts for Christmas. Thanksgiving offers a moment to slow down and not get caught up in the craziness of December season so we can reflect on the important things in life: loving God and loving Others.
For our kids, making Thanksgiving memories are important because I still cherish my own from childhood. My encouragement to all families is DO SOMETHING to celebrate this time as an intentional pause for Thanksgiving itself. Take a stack of sticky notes and cover one wall in your house every day this week in "THANK YOU'S" small and big. Leave those up as part of the Christmas decorations. I am giving it a try, starting today. (Pictures later.)
Memories are part of our family legacy and it just might break the crazy cycle of moving from Halloween to Christmas.
Let's just not skip Thanksgiving.