Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

I've noticed something incredibly disturbing, and I feel compelled to write about it. My realization may have come quite late, but it still bears mentioning. What really brought it to my attention was the announcement a little while ago that Macy's was going to open its doors on Thanksgiving Day, ending a tradition of being closed on the holiday that has lasted for as long as it has been on the calendar. Somehow I had not noticed that other stores had begun doing the same years ago, though I remember working at a store which opened the midnight after Thanksgiving a few years back. Topping it all off for me, though, was learning that Gabriel Bros. stores are going to be open all day that Thursday. Come on. What kind of person has to shop on Thanksgiving Day at Gabriel Bros. in order to get a good deal? Is it really necessary for them to be open and take their workers away from their families? It's ridiculous. 

For the most part we look at this as an element of the economy. Retailers are more and more desperate, and many are going to extreme lengths to attract customers and give them a larger shopping window. That is certainly part of it, but this is a matter of respect and recognition, too. I can recall a time when homes and businesses decorated for Thanksgiving. No longer. We are moving right into Christmas with the displays, the commercials, and the items being offered. Only the grocery stores seem to remember there is something going on the last Thursday of November. And that is just the stuff, the accouterment. Actual celebration is even more rare. It has been happening for years, but we have just about reached the point where the holiday is being entirely skipped.

This is absolutely shameful. How many people, I wonder, know what Thanksgiving is even for? I wouldn't doubt that most would say "turkey" and a few more would add "pilgrims." How many know the rich history of the federal government calling for days specifically to give thanks to God for His providence? Because that is what it is really all about. Before Abraham Lincoln codified it in its current position, the government called for these days of prayer at any point in the year when they believed it was warranted. I actually like that better, since it gave such days greater importance and freshness. But we should be thankful to Lincoln, because if it were not an official holiday we would not be observing it at all. As it is, can it really be said that we are respecting it?

In a sense, Thanksgiving is the most overtly religious holiday we have in this country. Easter is largely ignored, and is basically just for candy. Plus, it falls on a Sunday, so it is not a day off. Christmas is important still, but mostly for its consumerism. And even for those of us who know their true meaning, we also know they were merely recognized by our government, not created by it. Thanksgiving is different. It is a day where our government asks us to recognize God and pray to Him. It is a suggestion, not a requirement, so church/state separationists can take their panties out of a bunch. But it is a day when we as a nation gather as families and friends to thank the Author of our prosperity, and we do it on the recommendation of the state.

When I consider that, I am ashamed of what has been allowed to happen to this venerable day. In our ardor to save Christmas from the secular onslaught, we completely ignored what is arguably an even more important occasion, at least where the issue of religion in the public square is concerned. What was once a day set apart to let God know we appreciated His goodness has become nothing more than another shopping day. It no longer even marks the last day before Christmas. It  is just part of the season that falls between October 31 and December 25. 

I think it is time to start a countermovement. We must remind the nation of Thanksgiving's importance and purpose. It will take time. I do not expect a single call from me to change the disregard which has been building for years. But we have to demand respect for Thanksgiving. And the first way we do that is by not shopping on it. Just start there. Can we not wait a few extra hours and go in Friday morning? And if you work retail, refuse to go in on Thursday. I know you may feel you need the money. I feel that very same anxiety. But should we not trust that the God we are attempting to honor will provide for us if we put Him above our need of funds? He deserves at least that much. And honestly, so do we. We will be better people if we can put aside our consumerism and fear of the bills for just one day. Is it really asking so much? If it is, then I shudder to think what comes next.