My head is spinning as I realize that Thanksgiving is nearly here, already less than a week away.
I’ve always appreciated Thanksgiving. This holiday offers time away from work, the chance to spend time with family and to reflect and be thankful about what’s right in your life. Frankly, it’s good for the soul.
For me it’s a real bonus that I love turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, and I get to enjoy my favorite meal of the year.
Coming at the end of November, Thanksgiving offers a timely opportunity to step back and rejuvenate just before the onslaught of Christmas. Over the years I have been thankful for that, and take as much advantage as I can.
In today’s society though, it seems our frenetic me-me-me lifestyle has pushed Thanksgiving to the back corner of the closet. Each year the Thanksgiving tradition comes to mean a little bit less. Instead of being thankful for what we have, it seems the chief gratitude of many people is for the chance to leave the house to go shopping and fulfill the lustful drive to buy more, more, more.
An unfortunate byproduct of those Thanksgiving Day — we should just call it Black Thursday — sales and promotions is to intrude on the family time of the store employees. Instead of priceless time with their parents, children, grandparents, grandkids and other relatives, employees are forced from those gatherings to face just another day of work. And based on the rude behavior of many discount-driven shoppers, it is most likely a busy and unpleasant day on the job at that.
For my part I applaud the companies that place their employees’ family lives ahead of profit and remain closed on Thanksgiving. And I give at least a small nod to the stores that wait until the evening of Thanksgiving Day to open their doors, giving a bit of Black Thursday consideration to their workers.
Although most people probably never even give it a thought, Black Friday itself is evidence of eroding family values. Many employees also had the Friday after Thanksgiving off work, and with the kids also out of school that day it provided four days of uninterrupted family time.
To see how little Thanksgiving has come to mean to American consumers just look at the store shelves. Well before Halloween you see Christmas décor battling it out with the ghosts, goblins and witches across aisle after aisle, yet you have to hunt for the small section of shelving devoted to Thanksgiving items.
I confess I have been guilty of one Thanksgiving Day diversion since my childhood, Detroit Lions football. The Lions’ tradition of hosting a game on Thanksgiving Day goes back more than eight decades. I have never attended a Thanksgiving game in Detroit, but I have not missed a single one of their Thanksgiving games as long as I can remember.
To understand, though, you must realize this actually is a family tradition for me. Dad is a die-hard Lions fan, and he passed that on to me. Yes, as a child and young man we watched football, but we did it together as a family. Mom even indulged us by timing the Thanksgiving feast for halftime of the game. In those days before VCRs and DVR, when the second half started we would take turns breaking away from gobbling turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy to check out the game and offer everyone a brief update. Mind you this did not detract from our family time, it actually enhanced it.
Unfortunately even that storied Lions tradition has been watered down, with the NFL adding more and more games until they stretch from the Lions’ closing gun until far into the evening. What was a distinctive Detroit tradition, an annual appearance for the city and the Lions in the national spotlight, now is merely an afterthought.
If your entire extended family, or at least most of it, joins together for your Black Thursday shopping spree and truly enjoys it, then that part of it is good. Family time is precious no matter how you spend it. Even so, I hope I plant the seed of just a little regret over supporting the process that pulls store workers away from their own families while giving them little choice in the matter. Could your own family shopping tradition not wait at least one day for those workers’ benefit?
Come Black Friday I can guarantee you I will not be part of the marauding madness. If you enjoy rising at 3 a.m. to battle the masses, go for it.
In the meantime, though, I encourage you to slow down, catch your breath, enjoy your family and be grateful for the good in your life — at least for Thanksgiving Day.
Don Allison is an author, columnist and retired editor of The Bryan Times.