What Happened to Thanksgiving?

Three weeks ago I was walking in Walmart in the gardening section.  And there, tucked quietly on the side, in a row, near the patio furniture, were Christmas trees.  This was before Halloween.  I feel like the school year just started.

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Now, this is not a rant on how we are celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier.  Frankly, I don’t care about that in particular.  I’m sure there are people who quite brilliantly leave their Christmas tree up year round because it takes less energy.  That I don’t mind.  What I do mind is that the “holidays” based on getting stuff are squeezing out the holiday for appreciating the stuff.

Halloween has always been about dressing up and getting candy.  What’s cooler than dressing up and becoming something or someone completely different from yourself for one evening?  And getting Snickers bars to boot?  That’s amazing.

After Halloween is supposed to come Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is a holiday about family, about quality time spent together, about playing soccer or football in the backyard after eating a ton of food around a huge table packed with loved ones.  The whole idea of Thanksgiving is preparing food for someone else.  It’s spending hours together in the kitchen getting different dishes ready.  It’s everyone pitching in to make an entree or a dessert.  It’s guests helping you clean your dishes when half the party has left.  It’s playing Atari with your cousins in the basement and going on a long walk in the woods to counteract the tryptophan from the turkey.  This holiday is all about giving and thanking and community and kindness and gratitude.

No wonder it’s been completely overshadowed by the Christmas holiday season.  I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but here in America we like to get stuff.  We think our kids deserve hundreds of presents and we think other people should know what expensive thing we want to get under the tree.  In every school I’ve worked at over the years, Santa has become a bargaining tool for the children.  If you’re good you’ll get stuff, but if you don’t listen, Santa won’t come.

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So we go from dressing up and getting stuff in October, to a quick thanks for a second in November to “give me, give me, give me” in December.  January we have a momentary break and then we jump into February’s candy and card fest.

I guess I don’t need to go on, you can see where this is going.  We have become a country run by the gifts we get for each other.  We deserve the new car, the newest iPhone, and my child should have all the things on his Halloween, birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day lists.  We have become collectors of shiny stuff.

This year, I challenge you to cover your eyes and ears when the commercials for Christmas come on.  Stop believing the advertisements telling you how much you need.

What do you really need?  You need Thanksgiving.  Over and over and over again.  Remove yourself from the craziness.  I’m not saying not to give gifts.  But you don’t have to get everyone you’ve ever met a gift.  You don’t have to make a card for everyone who has ever crossed your path.  Your loved ones don’t need more than one present from you.

holding-handsThis holiday season (whatever that means) do your best to schedule time for the people you love.  Get out a board game.  Go outside for a walk.  Read a book together.  Create a meal from scratch together.  Do anything, but do it with someone.  Put your phones and your iPads down and look each other square in the eyes.  Whether you pray or not at your holiday of choice, you should still sit next to each other around a table and hold hands for a moment.  Maybe just take a deep breath together.  The human connection is something we’re losing.  Be the one to bring it back to your group.

Stop asking for more and appreciate all the things and people you have.

Do you have any plans with friends and family for the holidays?  Share it below!

Author: Mary Preston, LMFT

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach. Through dealing with my own anxiety and attention difficulties over the years I have discovered many useful practices and tools to help regain focus, shift my attention to what’s important and to stay organized enough to get the life that I want. In my practice I work primarily with women and children with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression and I share what I’ve learned to get them back on track to living a full, purpose filled life.

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