Let’s Take the Thanks Out of Thanksgiving

There is a lot of debate about Christ vs. Christmas.  There are bumper stickers, there are Facebook petitions, there are Republicans — “Let’s keep the Christ in Christmas, people!”  But is anyone talking about the outdated, schmaltzy tradition still called “Thanksgiving?”

Once upon a time, a few malcontents took a luxury cruise to the East Coast of the U.S., lived here for a year, then had a huge feast with turkey, stuffing, corn, (but they called it “maize”) and hot buttered rolls, and they said it was to offer thanks to the locals, the “townies” if you will, who had helped them for the past year, despite their near-total lack of immunity to smallpox.

Obviously, I’m being facetious.  To look at what Thanksgiving has become, though, that’s about as much respect as the holiday gives to its origins.  All that’s left seems to be a staggering feast, and a weekend spent shedding as much money as possible, and being a horrible person while you’re at it.

Black Friday has become part and parcel of the Thanksgiving weekend.  I remember it from when I was a kid, but much reduced.  Stores opened at their usual time, but with sales to bring in customers who likely had the day off work anyway.  Then, some stores decided if they opened at 6am, they’d get a jump on the customers.  So, their competitors opened at 5am.  Someone trumped it by opening at 12:01 a.m. on Friday — just technically in regulation for Friday.  Next, stores opened at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day — well after the feast and tryptophanic nap, at least.  Then it was 6pm on Thanksgiving Day.  This year, many stores were just open all day Thursday.

Parallel with the opening-time escalation came the “doorbuster” deals.  Laptops, Playstations, Appliances, all at staggering clearance — but only if you show up in person…and only a limited number per store.  So people showed up before the doors opened.  Much, much before the doors opened.  This year, the local news showed people who got in line outside a store at 10:00 a.m., Thanksgiving morning.

Let’s repeat this.  People threw away their entire Thanksgiving Day, and stood outside a store for an entire day.  No turkey, no stuffing.  No watching the Detroit Lions lose on national tv.  No family gathering.  To get a deal on some item or other.  I live in Florida, so they could at least wait in relative comfort, but this isn’t an isolated phenomenon — people do this across the country.  In Michigan, where it’s butt-ass cold on Thanksgiving, for instance.

Then, once the stores open their doors, it’s like a scene out of Sparta, lacking only the war hammers and pole axes.  People literally trample other bargain-seekers to death — happens every year — to get a laptop for $200, or a big TV for 80% off.  There are fistfights over shoes.  People mace the crowd to get ahead.  It’s barbaric.  It’s shameful.  It’s the worst behavior of humanity.

And for the final nail in the coffin, people don’t even call it “Thanksgiving” anymore.  They call it “Turkey Day.”  “How was your Turkey Day?”  “Did you have Turkey Day off?”  I suppose it’s the same as calling Christmas, “X-mas.”  It serves to completely remove any need to give thanks for anything, though.  No need to ponder for even ten seconds on how well one’s life actually is.

I thought that the whole reason for the Thanksgiving holiday was to give us a historical reason to look back on our year gone by and remember the things that went well, the things that could’ve been worse, and the things we already have…and be thankful.  Kind of the opposite of running from all of our warm homes and families and standing in a line to go grab more stuff.  I guess Americans really don’t like to think, not even for a second, about anything that they can’t can’t buy and show off.

So, let’s pull back the curtains on this sham called Thanksgiving.  Let’s get rid of the thanks.  Let’s just call it Turkey Day and be done with it.  In fact, let’s just order pizza from our smartphones, and have it delivered to us in the store parking lot, where we’re standing in line for a cheap tv.

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