Of all holidays celebrated in the United States of America, Thanksgiving is my favorite. It’s probably sacrilegious that I rank Christmas second to Thanksgiving, given that the former is the celebration of the birth of Christ and the latter is loosely based on some non-factual myth about Indians and Pilgrims eating turkey and corn together. No matter, Thanksgiving is my favorite.
If Christmas was really a day in which we gathered as family to celebrate the birth of Christ and shared perhaps a present or two, I might like Christmas better. But Christmas isn’t a single holiday, it’s an entire season; a complete commercialized extravaganza in which virtually any semblance of the celebration of the birth of Christ is utterly lost. The retail outlets start pushing Christmas promotions even before Thanksgiving occurs. To add insult to injury, most of them now prefer to the season as the “Holiday Season”, stripping any reference to Christ from their promotional material. Only Wal-Mart (remember them, the employee-exploiting, customer-cheating, supplier-bashing, most evil corporation in the entire universe) has recently decided to again give Christ top billing during Christmas.
When our kids and their cousins were young we spent months buying them obscene amounts of presents to cram under the tree. I’ve got photos of trees with at least a hundred presents beneath. The relatives would come and on Christmas morning we would open the presents. We had a tradition of opening just one present at a time, so the entire ordeal took probably an hour and a half. The result was always predictable. After the kids opened present after present, the finite scarcity of economic resources eventually imposed itself and the presents ran out. Inevitably, within two hours of the commencement of this crass, commercial free-for-all, one or more of the kids would end up crying! Yeah, man, that’s what Christmas is all about; it’s about teaching us that material things don’t buy happiness! Year after year we conducted this perverted economic experiment, which always ended with disillusioned young people who had almost no idea about why Christmas was supposed to be celebrated. As much as I tried to take a few minutes to read the Christmas story from the Bible, the message was always lost in the piles of discarded wrapping paper and ribbons. That’s why I don’t like Christmas.
Thanksgiving is another story. Compared to Christmas, Thanksgiving is simple and its message always gets through. We get together for the weekend at the home of the oldest generation. At first it was at Grandma’s house, the mantle was passed to our parents, and now it is our turn. A really great dinner is prepared, complete with turkey, stuffing, green beans with onions on top, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, olives, pickles, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dinner rolls. Pumpkin pie with real whipped cream is served for dessert. Gifts are not exchanged. While Deb works the hardest in the preparation of this mighty meal, I get to carve the turkey. Then, when we are all seated at the dinner table, I say a prayer thanking God for his gifts of bounty and health on our family. We ask for his forgiveness and pray for his continued guidance. It is a short prayer, perhaps only a minute long, but we hold hands around the table, everyone sitting in silence as that prayer is said. This is an important time for our family as it is the only occasion during the entire year when we are together to pray in his presence. Even though we are not farmers, for me Thanksgiving is the celebration of the harvest. It is a time to acknowledge God’s goodness to our family and to our great nation, America the beautiful! We stop to remember the significant events of the past year and to reflect on our blessings. I think that each of also silently recognizes that solely because of the grace of God we often receive undeserved blessings. He has been truly good to us.
I want to wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving. Have some fun, watch some football, go for a walk around the neighborhood if you can stand up after eating that huge meal! Take a minute to tell your wife how much you love her. Tell your husband how much you appreciated it when he tightened the hinges on the cabinet door last week. Hug your kids, even if they are over 30 years old! If you’ve got grandchildren, the blessings are obvious. Remember that grandparents are extremely important in the lives of young ones. I’ve only seen my son cry once in his life and that was at the funeral of his grandpa.
This is a crazy world we live in, full of problems and sadness but forget about all of that on November 23, 2006. Chill. Relax. Celebrate the best holiday of them all…Thanksgiving!