November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving is just pre-gaming for Christmas

A friend posted a picture from Wednesday. Her boys were in their pj's, standing by their Christmas tree. The stockings and nativity were on the mantel. She said they all watched A Charlie Brown Christmas shortly after the picture was taken. It was the night before Thanksgiving.

Another friend posted a different picture - family gathered and visiting on Thanksgiving day - with a big, cheery Christmas tree in the background.

Leaving my mom's house on Thanksgiving evening I counted four homes on her street already lit with lights and Christmas decorations. 

At first I was mad. Really, really put off. And then I became sad. And now I'm a pretty good portion of the both of them with a forced heaping helping of trying-not-to-care-what-other-people-do. 

But, hold the gravy, people! What is going on here?

I'm trying to understand why people don't seem to care as much about Thanksgiving any more, why they treat it as little more than a pre-gaming event for Christmas, and I just can't figure it out. I do not understand. But gosh, do I ever miss Thanksgivings of my childhood.


My older cousins tossing a football outside. Homes decorated inside and out with cornstalks, straw bales, pumpkins and gourds. Wearing construction paper Indian headbands and pilgrim hats. Going to Mass to thank God for our blessings. Talking about American history and the first Thanksgiving. People visiting and playing games and napping during the long, quiet day.

Maybe I'm romanticizing my past, but I really think that my memories are correct: for most of my life the Christmas season didn't begin until firmly after Thanksgiving. Not just for Catholics and others who celebrate Advent - but everyone. Everyone. It was the culture of America.


People didn't leave Thanksgiving gatherings early to shop at Wal-Mart. (Wal-Mart, people!!) And they didn't sit around Christmas trees. Loved ones were more important than a good deal on a new thing. And gratitude - a real humble thankfulness - was significant enough that we didn't have to give ourselves warm fuzzies with twinkling lights and Christmas movies.

I wish we could go back to that - to the Thanksgiving of my childhood. Where we were so thankful for what we had that the gratefulness was enough. Where we all looked forward to a day of counting blessings, taking naps, and having some peace and quiet. 


Or maybe the grown-ups just did a really good job of making me think that's what it was. If it was all just a trick well kudos to them! It worked and I'd like to give the same to my kids. 

Black Friday comes soon enough - why not leave the tree-putting-up, crowded shopping centers, and all-Christmas-music-all-the-time radio stations for then? Why not really stop and foster a sense of appreciation for what we have before diving into a season of wishlists? Why not stop pre-gaming Christmas with Thanksgiving and just give thanks? Really, truly I am asking: why not?

27 comments:

  1. Ditto - we don't do anything Christmas related until after Thanksgiving and even then we space things out. I'm a fan of Thanksgiving because it's a holiday (yes, not a religious one) that is just about togetherness - no presents, no big displays, nothing to do except eat and be together. I think it's fitting that it's before the Christmas season because we have a chance to reflect.

    It saddens me that this year I've seen more of the opinion that Thanksgiving is an optional holiday or just a shopping/Christmas kickoff when, like you, I have such a strong connection to it. The idea to leave Thanksgiving to binge shop still feels like a slap in the face to what the holiday is meant to celebrate.


    This is the first year my son really understands the concepts of "presents" and I'm glad we spent all of Thanksgiving making our "Thank you" window and focusing on our Thanks before we rush into our wishlists.

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  2. My aunt had to leave Thanksgiving early because she had to work at her retail job to the wee hours of the night or should I say morning? It was kinda sad :( I think people just love Christmas so much they can not wait to get their tree/decorations up. I don't agree with it, but I also am trying not to care. More and more I see families celebrating the twelve days of Christmas which is great! Even though it used to be the norm. I think things like the internet have helped to educate people of the proper liturgical ways to celebrate. When I was a kid Christmas usually ended on the 25th. The 12 days of Christmas was only a song to me.

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    1. "When I was a kid Christmas usually ended on the 25th. The 12 days of Christmas was only a song to me."
      Yep. Right there with you. So so so sad. Let us be a light to the generation we are raising!

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    2. Not only was the 12 Days of Christmas just a song, a lot of people around here don't even realize when they are. I have had a grown woman tell me that Dec 14th is the first day of Christmas.

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  3. BTW Love that turkey veggie tray!!

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    1. Travis' aunt did it! Isn't it great?!

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  4. I've been reading your blog (which I love, by the way) for a while and had to comment on this one! I was just saying to my husband that our whole society seems like a bunch three year olds who Just.Can't.Wait until Christmas morning. It makes me sad because I think it points to our lost ability to find joy in anything other than stuff. Aside from the oft-mentioned economic 'benefits' of an early Christmas season, I think it seems like a frenzied attempt to find some happiness.

    I struggle to remember how to access real joy and peace during this time of year, too, which makes observing Advent really important for me and my family. Thanksgiving then becomes a kind of Mardi gras, to set the tone for our Advent. We do try to live it up during the Christmas season, too, because of course all of it is wonderful and I love the music and lights and gifts just as much as the next person. :)

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    1. I like that idea - Thanksgiving being a sort of Mardi Gras!

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  5. This is a good reminder for me because I am not into Thanksgiving. Like you the Thanksgivings of my childhood come to mind & they were never something enjoyable. This is the kick in the pants I needed to know I can begin my own family's Thanksgiving traditions. I do love Christmas. I always have. Even when I worked retail & had to listen to Christmas music for hours a day. and even though it was Hallmark store which is an explosion of all things holiday. I still love it! I think partly because I love giving gifts. And because it's such a hopeful season. But I do thank you for writing this.

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    1. Also wanted to add that my husband has had to work almost every Thanksgiving we've been married, which makes the whole thing less celebratory. He works in food service right now and it truly irks me that people are very concerned with stores being open on Thanksgiving evening, but never mention the thousands of food service workers who miss out on this family holiday. It's really hard to enjoy a holiday like that when your partner & father of your kids isn't there.

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  6. I completely wait until after Thanksgiving before I even think about getting any Christmas stuff out. We put up our outdoor lights today, but only because the weather was nice, we will wait to turn them on for a week or so. My house is still decorated with gourds and pumpkins and pilgrims! We are trying to focus more on celebrating Advent this year, since our kids are getting old enough to comprehend it. I have our advent candle wreath out and another daily nativity building set for our kids. Christmas tree and decor we will wait til probably the 14th or after this year.
    I did go shopping yesterday, but just because Im so cheap, and poor, and have so many people to buy for that I cant pass up the deals that are offered.
    Hope you have a great season ahead!

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  7. we don't do anything Christmas until very close to Christmas either...yet I guess I just think to each their own. Perhaps those ppl put up trees because they were older and had a relative visiting and it was easier for them to have help. 2 weeks ago in our town a lot of ppl put their decorations up outside because it was 50 degrees over that weekend and then following weeks after it was going to snow---there are many reasons as to why others do things differently. I am with you on waiting---but I guess I don't get mad or sad, I just think, well, that's what they do in their family and that's fine. But, I do love thanksgiving and wish it was more traditional also.

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  8. One way to look at it in a slightly mor positive light, is that despite the commercialism and the overly eager Christmas lovers, the world is all aglow this time of year and the reason any of it is happening and despite people not evening getting it, the whole mad glittery craziness is happening because God came down as a baby! I try to offer other people's merry making to Jesus (even the big inflatable snow glows) and tell him that it's all because of him.. I guess it's my way of making peace with the concerns you mentioned. My kids sort of like that we slowly build toward Christmas and keep it simple till Guadete Sunday.

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  9. http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/30/this-is-not-the-christmas-season/
    (^Some more good thoughts.)

    It seems like the battle for Advent just gets worse every year, even among our Christian brothers/sisters. I think we just have to keep on trying and being an example. I've also never had so many great Advent resources and ideas as I've had now that I read some great blogs like this one ;).

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  10. http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/30/this-is-not-the-christmas-season/
    (^Some more good thoughts.)

    It seems like the battle for Advent just gets worse every year, even among our Christian brothers/sisters. I think we just have to keep on trying and being an example. I've also never had so many great Advent resources and ideas as I've had now that I read some great blogs like this one ;).

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    1. Just the title "This is not the Christmas Season" -AMEN AMEN

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  11. The nice thing is that we DO get to create whatever Thanksgiving we want with our own kids in our own houses. That's the beauty of having a family culture. We're right with you on all of this, but just wait until your kids get old enough to shake their heads exasperatedly at the Christmas carols in October. I had successfully brainwashed mine, you can too! Thanksgivings for us!

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  12. I completely agree! But I think one reason why this year may seem worse than years past is because advent starts so soon after thanksgiving. We would never get our tree so soon but we want it for the first Sunday of advent! Maybe next year won't be quite as rushed?? Maybe?

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  13. We do our Christmas tree on like...well...really super late, dec24th. Yea, that late. I know most Christmas places are out of stock but we were given a fake one and while I don't like fake shedding Christmas tree it was FREE FREE FREE and I a'int wagging a finger at that, no ma'am. So until we have a budget for real trees - fakey fake. I keep telling our little girl its not even Christmas time - its Advent season! And so far she is buying it...and so far I'm going to anger a bunch of family by a) not participating in decorating of the tree with grandparents on the first sunday of advent annnnnd not going to the extended family Christmas on December 14th. It's so weird. I don't like that I grew up treating Advent the way the Christmas season should be treated. As a kid it all ended with present opening on Christmas morning. Lame. My parents have great hearts but somehow it was just all about the 20+ presents we each got.
    Because of this my husband and I really try to save gifts for feastdays, random surprises and birthdays. All this hulabaloo about stuff is like clouding my vision. Back up ye consumers! Give me my liturgical seasons!
    Anyway, I feel like I went off-subject a bit.
    Yes, love the traditional Thanksgiving. Our little girl ate-up watching Charlie Brown and the Mayflower. A good historical-fiction 20 minute film. So tomorrow there will be an Advent wreath. And hopefully a sense of hushed and prayerful waiting in our hearts.
    Peace. (and if you read this - you're amazing.)

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    1. Charlie Brown and the Mayflower is completely banned at my house! :D My oldest daughter is super sensitive and she watched it when she was three and spent the three days after moaning and complaining that she was going to die. Ya know, just like the pilgrims. Who knew a cartoon could cause so much trauma? :)

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  14. Thanks for this. I make our family wait until Black Friday to put the decor up, but it is a tradition to head into town for some late night shopping after a noon meal and hours of Trivial Pursuit. I guess I was naive because our Thanksgiving meal has always been at noon or 1 pm... I forgot that "dinner" means something different to everyone.

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  15. Am I the friend with the gathered family and cheery tree in the background? If so, we didn't put it up until Friday, after our beautiful Thanksgiving feast. :)

    I can't speak for everyone, but in our particular circumstance, the nearest extended family lives 7 hours away. Sometimes we have to put our options on a scale: celebrating & making memories with family on a not-quite-right day OR waiting to celebrate on the correct day but all alone. Maybe this is the same for some people? Or maybe some people just want $5 off at Wal-Mart.

    The best we can do, is what we should do - but this will be different for each of us and at different times in our lives. Some reasons will be legit, some not so legit. Though we are called to encourage and challenge, we must also understand and forgive.

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    1. Alisha - you got me! And I actually really loved the stockings. :) Had it been on your blog I would have tagged you but since it was "more private" on FB I didn't - if that makes sense.

      And I'm SO glad you answered. I have other friends who do the same: travel, Thanksgiving on Thursday, Christmas on Friday. I appreciate you reminding me of that.

      I agree with your last statement, but it seems that there are people who aren't trying to do their best - like there's not a lot of intention and thought behind it - they're just caught up in the culture and following feelings. Maybe that opinion lacks charity and maybe it's dead on.

      I'm glad you called us to charity, though. Thanks for that.

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  16. I think about quote attributed to St Augustine: "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, diversity. In all things, charity."

    I enjoy learning about how other families choose to celebrate holidays and liturgical seasons, and these traditions can be very beneficial, but they are always "non-essentials."

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  17. I knew it was me! And if it seemed like I was calling everyone to charity, know that I was really calling myself to it...

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  18. I concur, Bonnie! I was just talking to my husband about this- my childhood memories of Thanksgiving are full of pilgrims, cornstalks, cornucopias, thankfuls, etc. I especially remember the holiday being a big deal in our grade school. Now when I look around I kinda feel like, "Where did Thanksgiving go?".
    I guess that's the beauty of the liturgical year- it constantly calls us to focus our minds and hearts on the season at hand. :)
    And that's a great quote Ryan added!

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