A Lament On the Disappearing of Thanksgiving

My Father used to love Thanksgiving. It was for him the one one holiday that was not corrupted by silly sales, and endless machinations of marketers. It was just a time when family gathered, stores were closed and there wasn’t much the marketers could do to mess with our minds.

But as you know, the “sanctuary” of Thanksgiving, has been steadily eroded in the past ten years with the depressing and even tragic spectacle of “Black Friday.” What an awful thing it has become in recent years to see people lining up through the middle of the night to stampede into stores. Not only are there terse interactions, but also physical altercations, even a few deaths a couple years back as a stampede occurred (as I recall for some stupid doll that was the rage that year).

This year the erosion of Thanksgiving took a major chunk of territory as many stores announced that they would open on the evening of Thanksgiving. A sadly, for many shoppers who seem to suffer from some definite signs of addiction, this means Thanksgiving is all but gone since they feel compelled to stand in line for hours to be among the first to make the hideous rush into the store for some miserable gadget. It is a sad spectacle, so very sad.

I expect someone to write in her defending the practice and announcing that some very good deals are to be had. But honestly, is it worth it to see a decent holiday eroded by this? And I wonder too how standing in line for six hours to save a few bucks is really saving anything at all. For me, time is very valuable, time with family is valuable, yes time is precious. I dunno, called unsold on the “deals” that are available.

Black Friday got its name because this was the weekend when many retailers finally saw the ink on their ledgers go from red (deficit) to black (profit). But Black Friday is now earning a new reputation as it manifests the darker side our our nature.

Mind you, I am not calling for some new “law” and for government to “do something.” Marketers are free to open their establishments and people are free to shop as they please.

But I share a memory inĀ  my Father’s honor (may he rest in peace), that, once upon a time there was a holiday in America that was uncommercialized, a holiday that was just about family, and gratitude, just about simple togetherness. Yes, once upon a time, in an America increasingly far, far away.

21 Replies to “A Lament On the Disappearing of Thanksgiving”

  1. I wish that I could say that I hadn’t been shopping today. However, I needed a few things and stopped in. After seeing the prep for the big sales that started at 5, I decided that I want no part of the madness. Like you, my time is valuable. I agree that I miss the holiday without all of the sales. However, as the nation becomes more secular, I wonder what nonbelieving people are giving thanks for. It is an opportunity for me to be grateful to God for all of His gifts. Do they thank the govt or fate? I am surprised that Thanksgiving hasn’t come under the same sort of attack as Christmas. But perhaps it has, but that attack is from Retailers using it as an opportunity to sell us more stuff.

  2. Monsignor, This is just another side of the Culture of Death. The Culture of Death isn’t just abortion, euthanasia and contraception. Let me explain. This is about the lack of respect for life and the dignity of the human being. The Culture of Death has expanded into the culture of “dissing” or disrespect. Many urban killings happen because someone “disses” someone else and then they whack them. Life is only worth a half inch which is a trigger pull. Furthermore, the gadget we need on Black Friday has reduced us to cattle in the eyes of retailers. We push, we shove and we trample others because we don’t care about other people because all we care about is the few bucks we are going to get off on the sale item. We could care less about the others who are lining up with us at the early hours of the morning or on Thanksgiving. Retailers don’t see us as people but numbers for their ledgers or units sold. This has allowed us to forget our dignity as humans to think this sale item is more important than someone else’s life. Aren’t we dissing our fellow shoppers? God help us! It’s greed in this instance that perpetuates this form of the Culture of Death, like selfishness perpetuates abortion, etc. So I pray, Lord please help us see that our WANT shouldn’t be greater that our dignity and our care for others. Don’t let us be reduced to a nation of how many units sold and that we see this time of year is meant for thanking you and being with our families. Amen.

  3. The erosion may stop if the POTUS begins to honor God more in his daily duties. It seems that he might be making a change in that direction since he is no longer afraid of losing a second term in office. There is reason for hope. We will see.

    1. OK, well while you are surely free to express this opinion, at little word from the moderator here to the effect that I do hope that this thread doesn’t channel into a political discussion. I personally think that the issue is far deeper in our culture than who is in the White House.

      1. I do agree Msgr Pope and I did not intend or desire this thread to become political. I also did not intend my comment to be “absolute” in effect.

        After reading President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation yesterday and then reading President Obama’s 2012 Thanksgiving Proclamation and then noting that Pres. Obama honored God in his proclamation, I saw reason for hope.

        People in positions of leadership who actually do influence their followers to act per their intent (the key to real leadership) can make a huge difference by what they express to be right or wrong, valued or not valued. And so, whenever the POTUS honors God, it really can have an effect on those in society who actually follow his lead. The ability to honor God can be a sign of God working in a person’s life.

        Of course, a person can take and use the name of God in vain as well. A person can also deny God out of respect for persons.

        But, in a positive light, when a government leader, by his word and deed, actually begins to lead a nation towards God, there can be reason for hope.

        Finally, I totally agree with you.

        1. One last blurb: we officially have Thanksgiving in this nation as a government holiday precisely because the POTUS proclaims it a holiday. In that sense, the holiday is, by its official source, political; Even though it might actually stem from a leader’s desire to thank God, it has the stamp of the seal of the POTUS.

        2. Yes, God is wholly absent from declarations made by our current president. I have no doubt he is perhaps the most explicitly secular president we have ever had. But as we both agree, this problem is deeper than who is prez.

  4. It just makes me feel sad. People running around like lunatics trying to fill some empty space in their hearts. Sad.

  5. I find it hard to believe anything has been accomplished by the retailers in moving black Friday shopping up into Thanksgiving night. If they would all draw a line in the sand and not open until say…..8am Friday, shoppers will still shop and Thanksgiving would still be held sacred. All they have accomplished is making workers come in earlier and earlier every year and nobody gains an advantage. It’s only a matter of time until retailers make the day before Thanksgiving black Wednesday.

  6. I grew up in Texas when we still had the “Blue Laws” in effect. That all changed by the late 70’s as secularists & retailers pushed to overturn the blue laws cause they were religious or sumthin’.

    By the mid – 80’s stores were under pressure to stock & decorate for Christmas by the day after Holloween. I worked visual merchandizing in Dept. Stores and we started prepping in September for the all nighter to come after Holloween. Christmas was up by Nov. 2nd all over the store and often all over the Mall, so that November wasn’t seasonally autumn anymore and stores would have a month of schitzoid merchandizing of pilgrims,pumpkins and cornucopias next to snow globes,angels and santa’s.

    The madness of Black Friday seemed to coincide with the spread of the “Big Boxstores” in the early 90’s and by then I was out of school, out of Retail and had my own family.

    I never got mixed up in it myself because I was burned out by then. Now that the internet has become a serious competitor to the brick and mortar store it will only get worse until the brick and mortars give way.

    I purchased what I needed in October, in balance to my wallet. I taught my daughter to make ornaments as gifts. We began after Thanksgiving. We made cookies and other things throughout the season to deliver as gifts. We went to Mass, watched old movies and made stuff. We went to the mall once or twice to skate, take the obligatory Santa Pic, bring a gift to the charity tree, see the lights and listen to carolers….Old fashioned kid stuff.

    It’s up to parents to set the tone. The retailers are just fighting to survive and doing what they’ve always done to find an angle to make the sell…but this was inevitable when secularization won their day in court and the culture shrugged.

  7. Your father forever burned that same image of Thanksgiving for me, too – God bless him. He was right when he called it the “Last Great American Holiday”. When I think of Thanksgiving, I always think of Uncle Charlie. Great seeing you yesterday despite my Death By Eating.

  8. I don’t understand Black Friday. If I understood it better, I suppose it would bother me more. I watched A Man for All Seasons and wished St. Thomas More could appear to express his views on the film.

  9. Retailers are making it really enticing by giving bogo, 20% discounts, etc. Naturally, many will be lured into it due to the present economic situation. We did bite into it as we bought our grandson his necessary daily requirements such as diapers, soap, etc. What our lament is, if they can sell these things at very low price and still be in the black, they can do it anytime. We don’t need the so called black Friday which deprives us of the observance of Thanksgiving, not only of the consumers but especially of the already tired workers, too. This consumerism is, of course, another form of materialism. LORD, grant us serenity that in spite of all these things, we can feel the Hand of GOD and be faithful and thankful of YOUR provisions in our life.

  10. I recall one Thanksgiving day when my mother and grandmother got their signals crossed. Mom and dad and us kids showed up at grandma’s expecting her to have the meal already prepared, and she in turn expected us to be bringing the food! No businesses whatsoever were open back then, including all gas stations closed. So my mom whipped up a meal with whatever was available in grandma’s refrigerator and cupboards. We all had a great laugh and a mighty memorable meal of wienies and pasta! Ha! My mom was always quite the wizard when it came to making mighty tasty meals on a shoestring budget. …I miss those bygone days when less was more.

  11. Perhaps the consumerist mentality permeating the holidays could be challenged by a renewed emphasis on the penitential nature of Advent?

    1. Or even better yet, by helping those who really, really do need our prayers, support, and help. The one problem with Advent is that the penence part of it is, other than for the color of the Advent candles and the priest’s vestments, it is not a well known penence, unlike Lent where the penence is much, much more visable.

  12. Thanksgiving–and all the other former holidays that used to mean something beyond being shopping frenzy days–began sliding into hedonistic materialism when state by state merchants, retailers, etc. convinced people that having stores close on Sunday was nothing but a blue law remnant from the Puritans.
    Our family’s only recourse to push back is by not shopping on Sundays and– on other days of the week– if we have the urge for fast food to go to Chick-Fil-A (which is the only chain I know of that gives honor to the Lord’s Day and guarantees its workers at least one day of rest and valuable family time.

  13. May I shout a very loud AMEN ! My sentiments exactly and I have been saying this for a long time ….

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