For someone new to America, Thanksgiving is a very difficult Holiday to understand: a formidable gorging, followed by intense shopping, all to celebrate a bountiful Harvest in a country where farming has become a lost profession, a holiday inspired by the Puritans and Pilgrims who celebrated the Indians’ generosity, after which they proceeded to slaughter them en masse and steal their land.
We drive and fly great distances to be together for this huge and important meal and then we hurry and scatter in all points of the shopping malls to spend the rest of the weekend, looking for gifts for the people we just had a meal with, whose company we left.
There used to be a natural order of things: eat together on Thursday, shop on Friday and Saturday and return home on Sunday. But that too has changed. The overabundance of cheap trinkets from China, peddled by corporate store giants, meant a redrawing of the holiday lines. At first, some stores started opening up very early on Black Friday. They kept pushing the clock back over the years, as they discovered they could sell more cheap trinkets if they opened at midnight on Thursday night, then pushed the time earlier and earlier on Thursday, and now we have the added convenience of scarfing down that meal in the early afternoon, thus giving us the convenience of going shopping by the time most restaurants offer the discounted early dinner fare for seniors. “Hurry up and eat that turkey, kids; we gotta go and catch those bargains!”
Then, in the spirit of the new Holiday coming up, Christmas, a time when we celebrate the altruism and generosity of Christ, we trample over each other, we push and shove to get the bargains offered by the store giants, to give each other these gifts, after we push and shove and trample over each other in order to get these “bargains”.
I don’t remember Jesus ever bringing a beautifully wrapped gift. How did we get from the celebration of generosity to this gluttony and consumerism? People all over the world have the tradition of the Christmas tree and Santa Claus leaving a few gifts under it. The gifts were for the kids who believed in Santa. How did we get from a few gifts for the kids to this “buy a gift for everyone you know” Christmas habit?
I am hereby calling for a rediscovery of this Holiday Season. Instead of the cheap trinkets made by slave labor in China and sold by the indentured servants working in our shopping malls, let’s rediscover what this Holiday Season is all about: spend quality time with your loved ones, cook a meal for a sick person, buy groceries for an impoverished family, teach someone to read, clean a bedridden person’s home, take someone on a trip to see the ocean they’ve never seen, visit a nursing home and hold and hug a person whose family forgot, take a child to the park, buy a Christmas Tree for a family who wouldn’t have one otherwise…
Each person who thus converts from gluttony and consumerism to this other “ism”, us-ism, will not only be more in line with the true meaning of this Holiday Season, but will discover the soulful joy inherent in this celebration. Happy Holidays!