Thanksgiving has changed drastically since the time settlers from Europe and native Americans sat down together, sharing a meal in appreciation for little more than mere survival.
Today, with so much physical excess possessed by so many, sumptuous meals have become routine. The number of people seated around the table may be the key difference on Thanksgiving. We mumble something about being thankful, talk religion and politics with relatives we haven’t seen since last year, and complain when dessert isn’t served before kickoff.
If that’s not your Thanksgiving experience, you are blessed. Please acknowledge it while counting your blessings.
Then, for too many, Thanksgiving brings personal situations not unlike those faced by our country’s first settlers. Even now, significant numbers of us are struggling to survive, anxious about putting food on bare tables and clothes on chilly backs.
Perhaps these will be blessed with the spirit of hope, because we live in a land where opportunities for better lives exist. Also, they are often showered by the generosity of neighbors — people who recognize the needs of others when compared to their own abundance and choose to use a portion of that abundance to make the lives of those less fortunate a bit easier.
Thankfully, there’s a good bit of that going around, especially at this time of year.
We’re approaching the single day each year when Americans at least try to appear thankful. Yet, it seems too often that the Thanksgiving holiday is little more than a speed bump on the road to Christmas. Without a holiday on the fourth Thursday each November, we might already be in full-blast Christmas mode.
I’m not one to criticize the practice of rushing the season. Christmas brings a crush of activities, so planning in advance helps avoid panic while freeing time in December to enjoy them.
Yet here we are, one week before “Black Friday,” the day when nothing is held back. The sprint to Christmas will be underway without reservation. Festive events at this time of year can occur so frequently, it’s little wonder people want to start organizing year-ending celebrations earlier and earlier.
“Christmas” in our society has become remarkable for its separate Christian and secular traditions, oddly coexisting but also competing. That’s another column in itself. Besides, we still have to get through Thanksgiving first.
Oops, “get through Thanksgiving” is a poor choice of words. But sometimes, that’s how it feels. There are traditions to be upheld, travel schedules to be kept, extra workloads for retailers, and kitchen duties for those responsible for the Thanksgiving meal.
Just as our lives together change, so do the ways we celebrate these holidays. Those changes can affect where the meal is served, which family members can participate, and specific activities we plan. Jobs, distance, and health are often major factors. The passage of time means generations pass while new generations arise.
While the details of family holiday gatherings are transitory, the constant here — and the greatest blessing — of Thanksgiving must be memories. Some of those memories were made years ago, but others are made anew every year.
Thanksgiving is a holiday all Americans can share, regardless of religion or creed. It’s a time to hit the pause button on busy lives throughout the year and somehow find the time to offer thanks, and to share our blessings with others.
Thanksgiving? Already? Being unprepared is one tradition that somehow hasn’t changed.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.