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Monday, November 23, 2015

Do You Celebrate Thanksgiving Or Thanksgetting?

"In our culture, we tell our children that it is o.k. to be pleased with what you have done, but never be satisfied. You need to keep your eye on the prize, do not rest content with what you have. To be content is to stop moving forward, to stop moving forward is to quit and winners never quit. Only losers are content and contentment with what you have is the basis of thankfulness...

"To be American is to constantly be in a state of need, of having something else that is required to keep pace. To stop and be thankful for what we have is to fail to appreciate how much we do not have and how far behind that is leaving us."

(Steve Gimbel. "We're past Thanksgiving. Time for Thanksgetting"
USA Today. November 28, 2013.)

Steve Gimbel, professor of philosophy at Gettysburg College, sets forth the sarcastic argument that Thanksgiving is obsolete and that the true American celebration is the next day, what has come to be called "Black Friday." Gimbel continues ...

"We should at least rename it Green Friday or, so as not to make it seem like another Earth Day we should name it 'Thanksgetting.'  After all, we are not thankful for what we have, but if you are well-mannered, you say "thank you" for what you get. It is the day when the process by which we get things begins and that is really what we are celebrating as Americans."

The third Thursday in November has become less about giving thanks and more about the kick-off of the holiday shopping season. The true American celebration is the next day, what has come to be called "Black Friday." We Americans have given into commercialism and jumped whole-hog into Thanksgetting. Total Consumer Spending Statistics show Black Friday online and in-store shoppers have spent an average of $50 billion over the last seven years (2008-2014).

According to the National Retail Federation, the typical shopper planned on spending more than $800 on gifts for friends and family last year. In addition, the Russell Research report “Simon Holiday PR Study” found that nearly 80 percent of holiday shoppers started their shopping before Thanksgiving last year.

Of course, spending stimulates the economy and getting a bargain saves money for consumers eager to gift others as sharing, meaningful part of the Christmas tradition.


To jump the gun, many retailers open on Thanksgiving Day, thus enticing people to leave their homes to shop for bargains instead of sharing their day with loved ones. And, some consumers believe there is no shame that families and holiday traditions have changed in modern times. Yet, the fact is, retailers could stage their sales for any other day less conducive to reducing the importance of a national day of thankful reflection.

Thanksgetting is about products, not people. The products and sale prices drive people to respond in hordes and spend large sums of money -- often causing individuals to buy more than they can afford while mindlessly purchasing products that fuel the insatiable "state of need." Consumers have become so conditioned by retailers and their lust for profits that they actually believe Black Friday and all it entails is a meaningful national observance in itself.

No matter how much historical truth and myth surround the 1621 Thanksgiving feast between Pilgrims and Native Americans, Thanksgiving is an important tradition in our culture because it allows people to give pause and offer thanks -- a time for sincere gratitude. Granted, much of the ideal table bounty and much of the grace afforded for family overabundance does reflect the American obsession with consumerism -- from the large turkey to the prayers for prosperous times.

The National Holiday of Thanksgiving We Know Today

The history of the national holiday even reflects other commercial and economic concerns. The modern concept of Thanksgiving is credited to a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book and author of the famous "Mary Had a Little Lamb" nursery rhyme, who spent 40 years advocating for a national, annual Thanksgiving holiday.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Hale saw the holiday as a way to infuse hope and belief in the nation and the Constitution. So, when the United States was torn in half during the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln was searching for a way to bring the nation together, he discussed the matter with Hale. Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states.

Thus, Abraham Lincoln became the father of the traditional Thanksgiving commemoration by creating a formal national holiday in an 1863 proclamation. He designated Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November by giving thanks for the advantages and privileges of living in a democracy. Please, read it here for yourself:

Washington, D.C.

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Secretary of State: William H. Seward

Then, decades later (1939), Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, to the third Thursday of November, in part to lengthen the amount of time for holiday shopping. It was determined that most people do their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and retailers hoped that with an extra week of shopping, people would buy more.

All the while, many believed that changing a cherished holiday just to appease businesses was not a sufficient reason for change. Atlantic City's mayor derogatorily called November 23 as "Franksgiving."

In response to the proposed change, some states still insisted on celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday, so eventually Congress stepped in. On December 26, 1941, less than a month after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Congress passed a law declaring the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.

(Jennifer Rosenberg. "How FDR Changed Thanksgiving." 2015.) 

Thanksgiving Roots Coexist With Thanksgetting Ties?

Thanksgiving for the attainment of our humble needs instead of Thanksgetting for “Thanks-For-What-I’m-Getting” is an attainable goal for the holiday. That is, if people accept the charge to provide simple grace and "give thanks" for the life-giving necessities provided by our loving God.

What about the trappings of the holiday?

Of course, we will watch the Macy's Parade and ogle the extravagance and pageantry.

Of course, we will gorge ourselves with delicious foods.

Of course, we will gab about the family and our holiday remembrances, think about missing relatives, and remind the children to behave and eat with proper behavior. 

Of course, we will goof off, watch hours of football, and snooze away in tryptophan-enhanced dreams.

But, like the Pilgrims, we Americans desperately need a day to recognize that everything we have is a gift from God -- even our pains and our sorrows. The Thanksgiving commemoration our forefathers established was meant to honor God and thank Him for His blessings and His grace. That spirit and meaning survive today in the hearts and minds of the truly thankful.

I believe it would behoove us to stop fretting about sales and purchases and give thanks that enlightens our spirits and strengthens our bonds with loved ones instead of making ourselves thrill to a darker Friday -- the day after that contributes to our sad, self-contrived state of need.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.

We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.

They hang about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.

So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives
And conquers if we let it.

There's not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past's wide measure.

But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.

We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble.

Farseeing is the soul and wise
Who knows the mask is double.

But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.

And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o'er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

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