Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Holiday Heresy - Let's Move Thanksgiving

While writing this, I am preparing for my 37th artery-clogging Thanksgiving. In reality, my preparations usually amount only to checking to make sure the reclining chair is still functioning properly and locating my one-size-too-large pants that I pull out specifically for this annual celebration. This year though, my pre-holiday groundwork also includes composing the following heresy.
In fact, I have no idea how my subsequent proposition will be viewed by the American people. For all I know, the nation as a whole, beginning with central Illinois, will let out a collective gasp of relief in that someone has finally expressed what they have secretly (or publicly) grumbled about for years. On the other hand, I could very well be branded the contemporary Benedict Arnold. Perhaps as you read this, a burning stake is being assembled and a search for me has commenced.
What profanation am I suggesting? I want to change the date of Thanksgiving.
You read that correctly, the fourth Thursday in November just does not work any more and it needs to be moved. My arguments for this run the gamut from practical to economical to the very safety of our children. Allow me to catalog my case against the current date:

● To begin with, the fourth Thursday in November is just too close to Christmas. For some extended families, Thanksgiving and Christmas are sometimes the only occasions on which they all gather.
“Hey Grandpa, how have you been?”
“No different than I was four weeks ago! Now pass me that gravy.”
● In the nineteenth century, when Abraham Lincoln chose the fourth Thursday as the nation’s day of Thanksgiving, harvests often didn’t begin until November and would regularly finish in December. The date made sense then. Now, almost all crops are in long before the celebration of thanks for them is offered.
● Though we were certainly spared this year, how many times has the first really bad winter storm hits Illinois just as we were all either en-route to or from our familial destinations. How many accidents and even deaths have occurred on these ice-covered roads traversed by tryptophan-laced drivers? Unfortunately, I do not have the statistics to answer these questions, but can remember many a Thanksgiving where I seriously asked how much we would be missed at the family gathering if we allowed calmer heads to prevail and did not travel in dangerous conditions.
● It’s the economy, stupid. History would have us believe that we Americans do not begin our Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving. I can attest that a certain huge, low-cost department store in my hometown had Christmas decorations and trimming on the shelves days before Halloween! While many a customer will bemoan this holiday encroachment, the fiscal facts must be appreciated: no store would do this unless there were customers who were willing and wanting to buy these goods at this time.
Moving Thanksgiving away from Christmas would, I suppose, make the day after Halloween—November 1—the “official” first day of the Christmas shopping season. In actuality, it probably already is. Longer shopping season = more shopping = more $. Just ask FDR.
After more than a half a decade of pressure from the nation’s big businesses, he finally changed the holiday of Thanksgiving from “the last Thursday in November”, as it had been celebrated ever since Lincoln reinstated the Holiday tradition in 1863, to “the fourth Thursday in November”. The change prevented two of every seven years from having the “official” beginning of the shopping season start on the last day of the month or even the first of December, drastically shortening time for shopping.
● Whether you look at Thanksgiving from a religious or patriotic viewpoint (or both), the holiday is simply too important to allow it to fade away due to its overshadowed status between two gaudily over-commercialized holidays like Halloween and the secular celebrations of Christmas. It is sad enough that our two greatest presidents have had their birthdays clumped together in Presidents’ Day, but made shamefully worse by the fact that this day is little remembered outside of large-scale mattress sales. We cannot allow this to happen to Thanksgiving also.

So, what is the solution? Where do we put Thanksgiving?
The move is easy, logical and unlikely to be opposed, in my opinion, by few other than the most radical conspiracists. I propose that we move Thanksgiving to September 11th. The date is already, by the media, more recognized and celebrated than the fourth Thursday in November. Christians piggy-backed December 25th from the pagans and turned it into the biggest day of the year. Why can’t we, as Americans, similarly take a date that turns and swells all thoughts toward those for whom we are most thankful—our family, loved ones, those serving and protecting our country, the police, firefighters, and heroes from all walks of life—and make it our wonderful country’s official day of Thanksgiving. Perhaps as a side benefit, it would also show enemy nations that the events of September 11th, 2001 (and any others that would attempt to mimic such attacks) have and not divided, but rather united our nation’s resolve and loyalty.
Address your letters to your local congress members. Perhaps you could just enclose this article.

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