Do we need to save Thanksgiving?

This post was published in 2011, but sadly, it seems it’s an even bigger issue in 2012. Hoping retailers will start taking a stand for what’s important in future Thanksgivings to come. -Meagan

save thanksgiving

Historically, I haven’t put much thought into Thanksgiving. Perhaps because it’s the one holiday where I’ve never had specific, lasting traditions (as a kid I alternated Thanksgivings between my mom and dad; as an adult, we spend it with a different family member every year) or maybe because I’ve just never been able to wrap my brain around gelatinous cranberry sauce, I’ve never treated it with the same reverence and planning as I do Christmas…or even Halloween.

I do love Thanksgiving’s sentiment, however: take a few days off work or school, get together with your friends and family, reflect on your blessings, eat your body weight in turkey and pie…yes, please. I love that nothing all that unusual happens, there are no carols or gifts or costumes (unless your family is really into it, I suppose). It’s got all the elements of a memorable day – food, friends, family, and for some, football – without any of the pressures of a larger or more commercialized holiday.

Until now?

I’ve done the whole get-up-at-4AM-and-wait-in-line Black Friday shopping thing exactly once, after which I decided that I would rather donate plasma in order to pay full price than ever again stand out in the bitter cold for hours, hoping for a marked-down DVD player. But while Black Friday shopping has never been my cup of tea, at least it’s never cut into our Thanksgiving Day celebrations.

This year, however, a long list of major retailers including Best Buy, Target, and WalMart will start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. (Well, technically Target and Best Buy don’t open until midnight, but just how early do you think people will start lining up on Thursday to get those limited-quantity “doorbuster” deals?) What might this trend do to the tradition of the relaxed family meal and an evening spent chatting, playing board games or watching football?

It’s hard to place the blame solely with retailers, who are probably under immense pressure to start their sales when everyone else does so as not to miss out on potential shoppers. And I guess it’s not surprising that a lot of people would rather wait in line in the evening (even if it is Thanksgiving) than get up in the middle of the night.

Of course, if retailers hadn’t started pushing the opening time up in the first place – or pushing this silly “shopping holiday” – to begin with, it wouldn’t be an issue.

On the other hand, if we weren’t so eager to give up our family time for discounted stuff, the idea probably never would have been dreamed up in the first place.

Everybody loves a deal, and yes, I’ve seen the ads…this year, it looks like there will be some good ones. I also know that so many families are struggling to make ends meet, and that the discounts available on Black Friday could make a real difference in their Christmas budgets.

But I really hope these early sales turn out to be a failed experiment. I’m holding out hope that, despite all the buzz and uber-bargains, when Thanksgiving actually comes around enough people will decide they’d really rather spend the whole day with their families rather than having to rush out right after downing the last bite of pie. Then, maybe retailers will see that it doesn’t really benefit anyone (perhaps least of all their employees) to keep pushing the time up and up and creating false competition, both between the stores and between the shoppers. In the end, stores will give us what they think we want, so the power lies with us to draw the line.

There is enough stuff for everyone, and plenty of season left for all of us to do our Christmas shopping. But what we don’t have a whole lot of these days is time…to enjoy good homemade meals, to enjoy conversation, to just enjoy one another’s company.

Thanksgiving might not be flashy, but it serves an important purpose. It doesn’t need carols, costumes, gifts, or dirt-cheap big-screen TVs to make it a special occasion. And starting this year, I think I’ll do my part to give it the attention it deserves.

Is Thanksgiving an important holiday in your home? What do you think about the trend toward Thursday “Black Friday” sales?

Photo credit: Michael Whitney via Flickr Creative Commons

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