The End of Thanksgiving Day
In noting the plans of Walmart and Sears to remain open on Thanksgiving Day, the news article tried to help us put it all in perspective: “The sanctity of Thanksgiving may be violated, but Walwart and Sears will have a (holiday sales) head start on their rivals… Retailers apparently will to do anything to avoid getting a lump of coal in their stockings again this year.”
1863-2009. It had a long run and will be remembered fondly by many. Of course, some will try to keep the tradition alive, but we have witnessed the end of Thanksgiving Day. Oh, the fourth Thursday in November still will be a day off for most of us – just not retail workers – because, as one report put it with apparent seriousness, “Thanksgiving falls a day before the greatest sale of the year, Black Friday.”
The roots of the American Thanksgiving Day observance are deep in the rocky soil of Plymouth Plantation, but the day first became the nation’s day to pause and give thanks in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln, the best president, called his “fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.”
During its 136-year run, Thanksgiving Day evolved into a uniquely American observance somehow able to include those whose ancestry runs through Plymouth Plantation and those newly arrived on our shore. There was a seriousness about it that brought the faithful to their knees in praise of the One Lincoln identified as “our beneficent Father” and the secular types to consider bounty and goodness from whatever source. Family gatherings became more and more important to the celebration as we traveled over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Football was added to the mix at some point, and there was always the feast – turkey and dressing and cranberries and pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving Day was one day when nobody worked and the exceptions proved the rule. Toll takers on the turnpike so we could get to grandma’s house and emergency room workers for middle aged men with visions of LeSean McCoy dancing in their heads. If you worked on Thanksgiving Day, it was to help make Thanksgiving Day Thanksgiving Day.
That’s all over. Black Friday, the now most important day of the fourth weekend in November, just crossed the border marked by those silly 4:00 a.m. free coffee and Dunkin’ Donut store openings and is rolling unchecked into the Thursday before, what used to be the nation’s holiday. How long will Sears and Walmart hold the head start against their rivals? Who will be first to offer free coffee and Dunkin’ Donuts at 4:00 a.m. on what we once called Thanksgiving Day? I have a hunch that we’ll find out in 2011.
Chances are that, like the French in 1940, some of us may offer token resistance to the invader, but in the end we’ll acquiesce. Why do we always have to watch the Lions and the Cowboys, anyway? I think I’ll go to Walmart and buy some stuff.
But what if, what if, just maybe, we mounted a resistance to the generals in the high command at Walmart and Sears, Target, K-Mart, Toys-R-Us and Best Buy? What if, Churchill-like, we braced ourselves to fight for all we have known and cared for? What if Walmart held a sale and no one showed up? It could be our finest hour.
It may be that Thanksgiving Day does not need to come to an end. It really is up to us.
See you Sunday. We will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday