Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Defense of Thanksgiving

Ok. I am going to warn you ahead of time that this post might step on some people's toes. But I just can't keep silent anymore...
A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to my Bible study and decided to flip through radio stations. As I was trying to decide whether I wanted to listen to Jason Mraz or Carrie Underwood, I came across it. Christmas music. I had to stop dead in my tracks and I literally pulled out my phone to double check the date. Now, please, understand me when I say that I absolutely LOVE Christmas music. It's my favorite! But the middle of November?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! After I got over my initial shock of how early they were playing Christmas music, I made a vow not to come back to that station until the appropriate time. Doesn't everyone know that you aren't supposed to play Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving? My vow was made and it was done. If other people wanted to listen to Christmas music that early, they could. But I am not going to.
I don't think I would have been as bothered by the Christmas music if I hadn't already been bothered my the Christmas decorations. It surprises me how stores carry Christmas thigns earlier and earlier every year. But I can get over that. People like to plan. I am a planner. I can handle planning for Christmas decorations early. That's not a problem. What is a problem is the fact that Christmas decorations and lights were already displayed the day after Halloween! That's right. The day after Halloween. The skeletons and ghosts came down and the tinsel and holly went up. Umm...I'm sorry, but what happended to Thanksgiving? You know, that major holiday between Halloween and Christmas?
Again, please don't misunderstand me. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love Christmas. I won't lie- I will be listening to Christmas music NONSTOP starting the day after Thanksgiving. I can't wait for Christmas! But when I started thinking about it, I can wait for Christmas. I can wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start celebrating Christmas. Have we really become that impatient as a culture that we completely overlook major holidays, just to get to our favorite?
When I put up an inquiry about why people can't wait on my Facebook page, these are some of the responses I got:
"cuz Christmas is amazing! esp. the days leading up to it. but thanksgiving is pretty great too." -C
 "there are many reasons :) 1. first of all, i think Thanksgiving and christmas go hand in hand, meaning that rather than opposing holidays, i think they are best enjoyed together. who says you can't eat your turkey while cozying up by the christmas tree? 2. we only get one short month out of the year to enjoy all of our christmas decorations...and since i'm spending the last week of december in my parent's home (and not mine!), i decided to put up my decorations a tad early to enjoy them to their fullest potential 3. impatience and the need for instant gratification." -N
"i went to buy a wedding gift in the middle of October and this lady was UPSET that they didn't have Christmas wrapping at Macy's yet. She told them they need to get their act together!" - W
Thanks for your responses/honesty! This was post is not meant to say that it is wrong to celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving and everyone should stop and do it my way. haha. Because it's not wrong. Just because I am crazy OCD  and think things should go in a certain order, doesn't mean I'm right. (Hello, I eat my meals one item at a time...I am certainly not an authority and not one to talk- lol.) But I did want this post to get people thinking because it has made me think.

As a culture, I think N's #3 pretty much sums it up: "impatience and the need for instant gratification." But that describes our culture aside from celebrating Christmas early. It's something I have been thinking a lot about in the midst of the economic situation that we are in as a nation. a lot of focus in the media has been how to fix it, who can fix it, how fast can we fix it. During the elections, there was a lot of finger pointing as to who got us into this mess (isn't it funny that it was always one person's fault? One single person to blame for all this mess...interesting), who was the best qualified to get us out. And yet, not enough finger pointing has been done toward the most basic of culprits: us. American consumers. Our impatience and need for instant gratification caused too many of us to purchase things we couldn't afford. We had to have that new "latest and greatest"...it didn't matter if it wasn't in the budget. We just put it on credit, and decided to worry about it later. Well, later has come. And now we are crying out for someone else to fix it. We are a consumer nation. We are a materialistic nation. And whether we want to admit it or not, we got ourselves into this mess because of our own greed. We got ourselves into this mess because of our perceived "need" for more.

So what does this have to do with the defense of Thanksgiving? Well, it has everything to do with how we have lost focus and need to remember how to be grateful. Our need for more, our need for having it now...it's because we have forgotten how to be grateful. We have forgotten what to be grateful for. We are a country with an overwhelming majority of the earth's wealth. And yet it's not enough. We constantly have to have more. And we live in our little American bubble and we forget. We forget that 8% of the world's population owns a car. I have a car. That means that 92% of the world's population look at me and think "rich." We forget that 800 million people won't eat today. I had a warm breakfast and am getting ready to eat lunch, and will go home tonight to look through my refrigerator and pantry to choose what I want to eat for dinner. Most of the world looks at me and things "rich." We forget that 1 billion people in teh world don't have access to clean water. The estimated cost of providing clean water to everyone is $10 billion. And yet Americans alone spend $40 billion a year...just on Christmas. The estimated cost of providing basic health and nutirition for everyone is $20 billion. That's how much Americans spend just on ice cream in one year. I am able to buy Christmas presents for my loved ones. I go out every once and awhile and enjoy ice cream. Most of the world looks at me and thinks "rich." What would life be like if we spent less on things we don't really need to give to someone the things they really do need?

So the point is perspective. And considering we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, we need to put things in perspective because we have so much to be grateful for. As a nation, we have started viewing wants as needs, privileges as rights. We have lost perspective on how "rich" we really are. Too often we focus on what we don't have and forget how much we really do have. It's so easy to get caught up in the consumer culture. I'm guilty; I get caught up. I look at what other people have and I lose perspective. I feel I "need" new winter clothes. I "need" that perfect job. I "need" a higher salary. I forget how abundantly blessed I am, just for the mere fact that I live in America, I have a job, I have a place to live, I have clean water, and I have food to eat. That's only the beginning, the most basic of how I am blessed. It's not wrong to be rich. It's not wrong to want to better your economic situation. It's not wrong to have nice things. But when those things become "necessities" we have to take a step back and reevaluate. We have to regain our perspective. And we need to take the time to say "thank you."

My feelings on this have been building...it seems as though God has something to teach me because I have been inundated with this information a lot in recent weeks. So when people are blowing ver Thanksgiving to head straight for Christmas...yeah. My feathers are ruffled. It just seems that we lose the meaning of Thanksgiving a little more each year. In all reality, we seem to lose the meaning of Christmas a little more each year, too. But Thanksgiving comes first, so it has to be addressed first ;) Just think about it. Why is Thanksgiving one day a year, and yet Christmas gets a whole month. N made a good point in her #1 "i think thanksgiving and christmas go hand in hand, meaning that rather than opposing holidays, i think they are best enjoyed together." If the best way for you celebrate the true meaning of both holidays is to eat turkey while cozying up to a Christmas tree, by all means...go for it! Again, it's not wrong to celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving. And just because you have already started Christmas, doesn't mean that you are going to forget about Thanksgiving. Let's just not limit Thanksgiving to one day or brush past its value.

So my challenge to you is to slow things up a bit. Take the time to reflect this week on what you are truly thankful for. Make sure you don't rush through Thanksgiving...don't rush through being grateful. Don't get so caught up in the excitement of Christmas that you forget to pause and say thank you for all God has done for you. Because He has done more than any one of us could ever know.

Have a wonderful (reflective) and safe Thanksgiving!

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