Most American children grew up hearing about the Pilgrims and the Indians celebrating Thanksgiving at Plymouth. The first nation wide Thanksgiving celebration was declared by George Washington “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November as a national holiday. This was later changed by Congress and Franklin D. Roosevelt to the fourth Thursday of November.
Thanksgiving, while still celebrated by Christians as a time to give thanks to God for our many blessings, has become more secular over the years, changing into a family get-together with a higher importance being placed on the feast than on giving thanks.
In recent years, I would wager that it has transformed yet again into the day the Christmas season officially begins. Throughout America, people are looking through the Thanksgiving Day sales papers to try to determine what to buy for friends, family, and themselves.
For those of you who may not know, the Black Friday got its name because many retailers are in the red all year until the Christmas shopping season officially begins. This is the day most stores finally cross the line from being in the red to making a profit — or being in the black. Hence, Black Friday.
What is truly ironic is that the day after Americans celebrate being blessed, they rush out and spend money they don’t have on credit cards for things they don’t really need, and things that will have lost their value or worse, not even exist anymore, before they are even paid for. We rush out and get ourselves into the red and in the process retailers go into the black.
It used to be that Black Friday followed Thanksgiving Day (hence the Friday in Black Friday). I can remember when stores started opening early on Friday morning for those extra special, limited number of item sales. A few years ago, stores closed for a few hours on Thursday and then re-opened at midnight. Last year, Walmart started their sales at 10PM Thanksgiving Day. This year, they started at 8PM. They no longer close for Thanksgiving at all. They are open 24 hours a day 364 days a year (they did start closing for Christmas two years ago, at least here in Arkansas).
I enjoy the holiday season. I like getting together with family for dinner with all the fixings. I think the exchange of gifts at Christmas is a great way to celebrate THE gift that was given through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
What I don’t like is when the true meaning of these celebrations gets lost in the shuffle. It isn’t about the meal. It’s about being thankful for what we have.
I realize I’m writing this a bit late. But, if you haven’t gone out to take advantage of those big sales, I encourage you to stop and think before you do. Don’t go into debt buying Christmas presents. If you don’t have cash — free and clear (meaning you aren’t robbing Peter to buy Paul a Christmas present!) — then don’t buy it. Bake some cookies, write a heartfelt letter, gift a family heirloom, do a good deed… Tell your friends and relatives that you have decided to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year, and you would prefer to not exchange store-bought gifts at all.
Sure, they may look at you like you’re a little strange. But, when January rolls around, which it tends to do every year after Christmas, you will be able to breath much easier, and enjoy life much more fully by not having more debt weighing you down.
Wishing you and yours a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!