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Thanksgiving 2012: What is Thanksgiving, And How We Have Lost Its Meaning

Everyone knows the story of the First Thanksgiving in 1621, or should the precarious little colony of Puritans at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, sharing their first harvest feast with the local native tribes. We have songs about it: “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…”

President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863, declaring the last Thursday in November the official Day of Thanksgiving in the United States, but it wasn’t until 1941 that President Franklin Roosevelt signed the legislation which made Thanksgiving Day a federal holiday.

Through all those years, whether we are religious or not, Thanksgiving Day has been both our harvest festival and our family holiday – the time we come together to celebrate the goodness and bounty of our land and our people. Our families gather and we anticipate a traditional and special dinner together.

This has always been my favorite time of year. My childhood memories of Thanksgiving glow with firelight and candlelight, the glint of the “good” silverware, the golden-brown skin of an enormous turkey, the love and humor in the eyes of now long-passed grandparents and other dear ones.

Other events have crept in over time: football games, for one thing. That was OK. The “boys” – some of them pushing 80 – would leave the dinner table and regroup around the television to fiddle with rabbit ears and place jocular bets while the “girls” cleaned up the debris of dinner.

Shopping on Friday started out OK, too. Only 29 Shopping Days ‘til Christmas! I could read the signs over the doors of stores and hear the Salvation Army bellringers on the Miracle Mile when Mom took us downtown to see the wonderful animated windows at Marshall Field’s. Those are good memories.

But somewhere along the way, we have lost the charm of those things and replaced it with hype and crassness and downright greed. The stores now compete to open earlier and earlier on Black Friday (so named because most of them make it into “the black” that day and it represents the turn from red ink to profit for the entire year) and the customers OMG! Since when is it considered charming – or even good manners – to stampede into a store, trampling your fellow shoppers, and to actually fight over the merchandise?

I have a proposal to make and will make it each successive year at this time, in the hope that the movement to Occupy Thanksgiving will grow and thrive: Let us take back our holiday! Let’s NOT do ANY shopping on Black Friday, anywhere! If you look at the circulars (and I do, because I work in a retail store) the prices are good from the Monday BEFORE Thanksgiving, all the way through the weekend. Let’s tell the big corporations that we refuse to be rushed into Christmas. We refuse to be commercialized and reduced to a greedy mob. Occupy Thanksgiving.

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