A break from the holidays
The over-commercialization of Halloween and Christmas has made us forget about Thanksgiving
Everyone has their mind on Halloween this week. Come to think of it, everyone has had their mind on Halloween for the past month. How could they not? Department stores, grocery stores and superstores alike start to sneak their Halloween decorations and their costume racks into the aisles as soon as they have exploited “Back-to-School” season to its limit. By Labor Day, you can hardly walk past a store or diner window without seeing a stick-on pumpkin or black cat, nor can you switch on the television without hearing about the latest costume trends or upcoming scary movie marathons. It is ridiculous. And I can predict with absolute certainty what people will start talking about as soon as Halloween passes us by — Christmas and its associated search for the perfect presents. Almost immediately, wreaths will begin appearing on doors, cardboard castles full of candy canes will sprout up in front of check-out lines, dazzling lights will hang from the ceilings, and Santa Claus will take up residence in the local mall.
As we get rushed into holidays, our excitement becomes perfunctory and also tiresome after a while. I love dressing up and begging for free candy as much as anyone, but when I am expected to start planning my costume in late August, by the time the big event finally rolls around I am bored of the whole thing. We get shoved into Christmas season prematurely especially. I understand that the Christmas spirit is an attractive concept. Everyone loves the ambiance of the holiday season. It is a beloved song lyric for a reason: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But is that why we start celebrating in early November? Is it our collective thrill over the prospect of the actual holiday? More so, I feel that it is a result of the unabashed commercialization that both Halloween and Christmas have suffered.
Of course, I understand that for many, the Christmas season in particular is much more than the sum of its parts. It is not about the casserole dishes, the Christmas carols, the decorations or even the exchange of gifts. It is a religious experience. But it seems that society overall has lost sight of not only that spiritual significance of Christmas, but also of the opportunity it presents to spend time with family and embrace the spirit of giving in its most innocent sense. Christmas has become a profitable enterprise that we must begin taking advantage of at the earliest opportunity.
In our hurry to arrive at the Christmas season — by allowing it to commence in November — Americans are forgetting something of great importance: Thanksgiving. We are completely ignoring Thanksgiving, or labeling it simply as the stepping stone to Christmas, when it becomes acceptable to begin decking the halls. Personally, I find this a devastating oversight, and I do not understand it. Why doesn’t Thanksgiving get the months of promotion and fanfare that the other holidays receive? Perhaps it is because Thanksgiving refuses to be commercialized. With Thanksgiving, there is no gimmick. You cannot sell gratitude, you cannot profit from reflection and thanks. Besides the occasional paper turkey ornament or the reasonable increase in turkey sales, Thanksgiving has no “shopping season”; there is nothing to buy and thus, nothing to sell. As a result, the significance of Thanksgiving has been reduced. I am not saying that we should try to increase the appeal of Thanksgiving by finding something about it to exploit, but rather that we should acknowledge the relative marketability of some holidays over others and realize that a holiday’s cultural value is not directly related to its literal, commercial value.
If you can’t tell already, I adore Thanksgiving. Aside from the holiday itself, I think we should slow down to appreciate the loveliness of that time of year. I love the colors of the leaves, the slight chill in the air and having pumpkin-flavored everything! And while we have inarguably sanitized our history, I love the basic concept of Thanksgiving, the essence of what we are celebrating. At the very first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and the American Indians put aside their differences and had a hearty dinner together in appreciation of their successful harvest. That is a beautiful thing.
In modern times, we recognize different traditions, but we should still give a nod to our roots. Thanksgiving is an excuse to hang out with your family for no other reason than their company — no gifts, no strings attached. Together, you eat delicious food, watch football and see a parade. Is there any combination of things that sounds more wholesome, or more American, than that? Thanksgiving is a time for everyone, regardless of religious tradition or background, to acknowledge the blessings in their lives and say thanks. So let us try to remember it this year.
Ashley Spinks’s column appears Mondays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.