Getting Caught up in the Commercialization

The Real Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in praise of the entire month of November. I love this month for many reasons, but I know that Thanksgiving is the main attraction for this time of year.

Thanksgiving immediately brings to mind lots of things: food, football, parades, Black Friday, and mostly more food.

Food defines a culture, and America is no exception. Traditional Thanksgiving meals often include a turkey (of course), mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberries, some form of bread, and possibly sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top or green bean casserole (my Midwest brain still can’t comprehend why this is the one food that we always refer to by casserole rather than hot dish). 

Families gather for the traditional Thanksgiving football game, which has become a staple for the holiday.

Black Friday is closely associated with Thanksgiving, with people poring over deals and ads, looking for the best method to fill up their cart.

We always talk about Christmas being commercialized (and it definitely is), but is there no one willing to stick up for Thanksgiving in the same way?

We all know the Thanksgiving story: the Mayflower left Europe in 1620, full of people of different walks of life: Separatists, Puritans, servants, crew members, all looking for a new life in a world they knew almost nothing about.

Most of them were looking for religious freedom, a place to worship God as they wanted.

The crossing of the Atlantic took 66 days in stormy water on a tiny ship with 102 people crowded on board. Only one person died on the voyage, but after landing in late fall on the east coast, nearly half of the passengers who had originally sailed died that winter.

Only 52 people lived to see spring.

The Native Americans, particularly Squanto and Samoset, helped the survivors learn to live and survive in their new land and held a feast of thanksgiving at harvest.

We can talk on and on about what followed, about the Native Americans and settlers going to war, and the way the settlers wanted everyone to conform to their religion, and so on.

Thanksgiving is not about what happened in those scenarios: it was the settlers being grateful to be alive another year, to now have hope that they could actually survive.

I’m not sure, but somehow, through four centuries, all that turned into a football game and an excuse to rack up credit card debt.

Hear me out: all of this adds to the excitement of the holidays, and we all know that this is a time to reflect and be thankful for another year, but we shouldn’t take the history of the holiday for granted, either.

The focus goes to the food, mostly. We Americans love our food! There’s nothing wrong with that, however, we should not take that benefit for granted. 

Football? Great! Don’t make that the entire reason to show up to the family dinner. Spend time with your family, too, not glued to the TV.

Thanksgiving is an amazing time to connect to cousins, grandparents, or other family and friends that you may not see very often. The pilgrims would have been grateful to be with theirs, after so many of their own relatives and friends died that first winter.

We can appreciate what we have, even if it’s been a hard year. Focusing on the material things won’t make up for anything that may have gone wrong since last November. 

Even if you’re alone for Thanksgiving and you don’t have a family or friends to be with, getting caught up in the commercialism doesn’t help much, aside from temporarily taking your mind off the problem. 

Everybody has something to appreciate, without having to get caught up in everything else. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy these aspects – I, for one, am all here for the Macy’s parade – but this shouldn’t be what Thanksgiving, or any holiday, is all about. 

Being grateful for even the little things, like being alive, has something to be said for itself. 

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