I'm always surprised every year, even though it's always the same. The day after Halloween, there are Christmas trees in Walmart and "Silver Bells" is playing on the radio, with little to no mention of the last Thursday in November. With the constant attention on the consumer-driven, commercialized nature of Christmas, it's no wonder that a day that asks us to examine our blessings and what we're thankful for is largely left on the backburner.
Growing up, my family always made a point of emphasizing Thanksgiving and leaving preparation for Christmas as late as possible. Thanksgiving was always spent with close family and good food but was still a significant, if quieter, celebration than Christmas. Call me a grinch if you will, but I've chosen to maintain that attitude into adulthood. I refuse to decorate, listen to Christmas music or do anything Christmas-related until December, and to be honest, I don't entirely understand why people are in such a rush to get to December 25th that they completely discount or minimize a day set aside for being grateful.
While Halloween seems to be a holiday constructed purely for small children in costumes or drunk college kids in costumes, Christmas is the end-all, be-all of annual holiday celebrations. Don't get me wrong; I love the season more than anything. But Thanksgiving is different--to me, it's the underdog of winter holidays, and I think its importance lies in its understatedness. You would think that because there's a consumer element to it, in massive shopping opportunities like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it would be more popular. But those events seem to exist on their own away from Thanksgiving, as a way to prepare for the impending Christmas behemoth...and not as a way to work off possible coronaries from too much turkey and pumpkin pie.
Perhaps that's just who we are as a society. We're always being encouraged, by advertising and marketing ploys, social media and TV along with a host of other influences, to consider ourselves first before others, and especially in what we want but not necessarily need. Regardless of personal faith or the traditions you keep during the holidays, giving back is a rewarding aspect of the season that's often unexamined.
Depending on where you live, especially if it's in a larger metropolitan area, the chances are good there's a local resource that will provide Thanksgiving meals to homeless individuals or provide shelter to families for a small donation. I have friends who celebrate a day before and then spend their morning working at a food bank or stocking a food pantry, or cooking meals for a shelter. In addition to family, invite guests who don't have plans for the day or are far away from their loved ones. Come together. Forget about stringing lights and Christmas trees and what you're going to get the guy you've been dating for a few months who is impossible to shop for. Around a table and a good meal, at least for a little bit, none of that matters. Which candidate we're going to vote for or studying for final exams or our diet and fitting into that New Year's Eve dress doesn't matter. At least for a day, what matters is celebrating one another and what we can do for each other.