Thanksgiving in America is a proud tradition with a long history…though it has only been an “official holiday since the Civil War. Of course, every school child is taught the story of the first Thanksgiving, with the Pilgrims and the Indians…usually culminating in a big feast at school, complete with costumes and a pageant!
But, over the past several years, Thanksgiving has slowly been pushed aside in favor of the bigger money-maker: Christmas. The stores put up their big Christmas displays before the last Trick-or-Treater has even made it home to sort their candy!
Now, I like Christmas, don’t get me wrong. What’s not to like? We get to celebrate the birth of Our Lord with cookies, candy, and presents! But, when we skip straight from Halloween to Christmas, we miss something…something important.
Why is Thanksgiving Important?
1. Time to slow down.
Many (but not all) of us get a little time off work during the week of Thanksgiving. We get to slow down and take a little breather. Of course, I’m a mom, so that doesn’t really happen for me! But, we do usually take a trip up to visit my parents. It’s the closest thing to a break I ever get. Everyone needs a break now and then. It helps us clear our heads. When we come back, we feel refreshed and ready to tackle all those problems again. It’s nice to have a change of pace!
2. Time to remember who is really responsible for all of the blessings in our lives.
Just before Bear’s first Christmas, I had quit my job a few months earlier to be a full time stay at home mom. Money was tight…very tight! We had a long (expensive) trip to make…which would turn out to be the last Christmas we ever traveled to Odessa. We had a baby to (obsessively) buy gifts for. Our list of bills was never-ending. How were we ever going to pay for all this?
I sat down at the computer one afternoon to check on our checking account before we paid a bill. I clenched my teeth as I logged into our account. Then the screen popped up…
“There’s nearly a thousand dollars more than there should be! Where on earth did an extra thousand dollars come from???” I was frantically going through scenarios in my head. I was very sure that I had no rich uncles…not even the kind that live in Nigeria.
I clicked on the account details. Something had to be wrong, something must have gone unpaid. There was an automatic deposit in the account from my former employer. They had finished paying out all of my vacation time months ago.
I called my husband…I couldn’t think what to do. He told me to call payroll for my old department. So I did. They had to put me on hold while they looked it up. When the secretary came back to the phone, she very nonchalantly explained that because of some sort of glitch, they had failed to pay me for all of the compensation hours I had earned for working so much overtime in my former position. As soon as they caught it, they had sent a deposit to my account. There was no mistake, the money was rightfully mine.
You see, we were in an hour of need. God sent us those funds at exactly the right moment…a moment when we would remember and know that He was really the one in control.
I have more stories, similar to this one. Some have happened to me, some to my husband (one even involving a deer). These things happen to us to remind us that God is in control, He will provide when we call on Him.
Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to remember and reflect on all of those instances, and then to give thanks that He cares about us so much!
3. Time to spend with family and friends.
When I was young, we spent many Thanksgivings at my grandparent’s house in Odessa, Texas. We would spend the morning together, watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and preparing in the kitchen for our big “feast” at lunch. Then, we would sit down together at the table, pray to thank God for all the blessings he had given us out of His bounty. As we ate, we sat around the table telling stories about family…both those gathered in other places, and those that had already gathered in Heaven. Eventually, we would get up, and clean up the mess inevitably made by the festivities in the kitchen.
When we finished the clean up, we would often sit around a card table, putting a puzzle together, or maybe playing dominoes. My grandparents and mom and uncle would talk about memories of their childhoods, or maybe trouble they got into with their cousins. I learned about our family history, and in doing so, I learned about myself!
When the game-playing was all done, my mother and grandmother would eventually turn their attention to the newspaper ads, to try to quickly coordinate their plan of attack for Black Friday. There would always be jokes about how the stores seemed to open earlier and earlier every year. I specifically remember one year, when I was a teenager, I quipped back that by the time I had kids, Black Friday would begin on Thanksgiving itself! Everyone laughed and said, “No way! People would never stand for that!”
Black Friday Eve
Until they did.
To many, Thanksgiving means little anymore, other than an excuse for gluttony, followed by a marathon of greed…a rush to the store to get the most stuff for as little money as possible. If you have to beat someone up to get it, no problem!
Unfortunately, that greed marathon requires many thousands of people to leave their families to serve the shopping hordes. For them, Thanksgiving can no longer mean slowing down, thanking God for all his blessings, and spending a little time with family and friends. Now, it’s just another day at work, with even longer, harder hours than usual…hours spent breaking up fights over big screens in the electronics department, or Legos in the toy department.
Thanksgiving has lost its meaning. All it is to many is just Black Friday Eve. The day of early Early Bird sales. Doorbusters start at midnight on Thanksgiving! Better get on out there…you might miss out on the stuff.
As for me and mine, I think we’ll live with it…missing the stuff. We’ll slow down, thank God for His many blessings. We’ll spend a few days with family that we don’t get to see very often. We might even peruse a Black Friday ad or two together. But, you can bet we won’t be there on Thanksgiving. It’s not the time or the place. We’ll save it for Friday afternoon. The stuff will still be there…if it isn’t, we’ll order it online on Monday. Life will go on. What is stuff compared to time with your family? Mere nothingness.
Thanksgiving precedes the first Sunday of Advent, usually only by a few days. What better way to enter into a period of making our hearts ready to welcome Christ than to slow down, and thank God for the blessings in our lives?
Don’t forget Thanksgiving. Remember it, dress up like an Indian if you need to. Just don’t forget to slow down and be thankful.
This year, will you celebrate Black Friday Eve? Or Thanksgiving?