Today is the Holiday known as Thanksgiving here in the US. It is a day steeped in traditions that date back to the earliest History of Europeans living in North America. Like so many other Holidays on the calendar, it is sometimes easy to forget why this one exists.
The lore of the Holiday is that the settlers in the Plymouth colony celebrated the fact that they had survived their first winter, then planted and harvested a rich yield in the ensuing year. They invited Native Americans to join them at the table, and had a great feast. I am sure the actual history of that day is debatable, but the sentiment of it transcends the particulars of the event. As any school child in America knows, on that day they came together as one. With their family and friends from England, and joined by their new friends, they broke bread and shared fellowship.
This week millions of people in America have traveled to be with their families. Some have come a short distance, others have flown and endured busy airports. All of this, to be at one table to celebrate and share. Over the years, the traditions around the day have evolved. But, that is what tradition is about. It is about evolving and adapting. Were it not, we’d all be wearing floor-length dresses, buckled hats and boots, and eating outdoors. With time, things change, and that is healthy and natural.
In recent weeks much has been made of when the “Black Friday” sales would begin. Traditionally the Christmas shopping season began with the Thanksgiving weekend. The Macy’s parade was a promotional gimmick to get people to follow a boisterous, colorful celebration – culminated with the arrival of Santa- right the front door of a department store. What could be more capitalistic than that?
Today stores “leak out” their fantastic sales and bargains weeks in advance. Super Shoppers hold meetings with their closest allies. They gather around the table, with the cornucopia of sale ads laid out before them, and map out their conquests. The heartiest among the shoppers pitch tents in front of their favorite stores days in advance to be the “first” through the door to claim their booty of savings (those stores must smell so wonderful with these funky shoppers plodding around).
Much has been made about the idea of these stores even opening on the Holiday itself. Some stores will be throwing their doors open with enormous sales in the afternoon today. Others will start at Midnight. While still others will open in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow. There are a few stores that have pledged that they will NOT open on the Holiday to allow their employees to spend time with their families. A noble gesture mostly designed to gain some publicity and get the die hard, non-shoppers to come their way later. (One of those proudly making the claim is Sam’s Club. I find it interesting because Walmart, which is owned by the same parent company, has essentially always been open on Thanksgiving all day long)
My take on the shopping debate is this. If you don’t want to shop today, then don’t. If enough people share your sentiment, then stores will stop opening their doors. If you are a person who has to work today in one of those stores, as soon as you have finished giving thanks for having a job remember that there are millions of others in various professions (law enforcement, fire fighting, our military domestic and abroad, EMTs, doctors and nurses..just to name a few), who will also be working today. Also remember, for every strident non-shopper there is a person who found a great gift, at a bargain, for a loved one. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I will leave you with this. Remember that the original tradition of this Holiday was to come together to give thanks for the bounty of the harvest, and for the forming of new friendships and alliances. It was about celebrating the idea that we must all work together, interdependently, to muddle our way through life’s difficulties and challenges. No one person, and really, no one family can make it on their own. To get by we need the help, support, and love of our families and friends.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!