Black Friday: The Question of Thanksgiving Day v Shopping Madness…
Lately, many friends and clients have discussed with me how the spirit of the holidays seems to be losing importance in our American way of life; especially in light of some of the major retailers’ refusal to grant employees time off to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.
If one takes the time to learn a little bit about the celebration of Thanksgiving, we discover how intertwined it is with the history of our great nation. Thanksgiving is considered a truly American Holiday, it is a celebration rooted, at least allegorically, in the hardship and community experienced by our forefathers. When our country began, the first settlers struggled to establish themselves in this newly discovered land and celebrated a festival of thanksgiving. Today, I simply wish to address what Thanksgiving Day has come to mean; it is a day of reflection, an occasion to focus on family, an opportunity to share of our bounty with one another. Thanksgiving was formally established as a holiday to commemorate the American generous spirit and to give thanks for our everyday blessings. I simply want to focus on what Thanksgiving Day has traditionally meant to us as Americans and to address the potential threat to the spirit of thanksgiving if we allow retailers to once again redefine for us the purpose of the day.
In 1621, the first Thanksgiving celebration took place. On that day, America was one as pilgrims were joined by approximately 90 members of the local Wampanoag tribe, including Chief Massasoit, to celebrate a successful harvest, It is said that they ate fowl and deer for certain and probably berries, fish, clams, plums, and boiled pumpkin. After that, sporadic thanksgiving celebrations followed, usually in celebration of the end of a drought, a successful battle, or bountiful harvests.
Then in 1771 all 13 American colonies celebrated a day to give thanks on the same day. The very first national Thanksgiving Day was held in 1789, when President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26 “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,” to especially give thanks for the opportunity to form a new nation and the establishment of a new constitution.
It was President Lincoln who in October of 1863 issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November, which had been George Washington´s chosen date, as “a day to give thanks and praise.” From that point on, the United States of America had a uniquely American national and annual day of celebration.
For the next 75 years, American Presidents honored Lincoln´s tradition and issued a yearly Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November as the day of Thanksgiving. In 1939, retailers first influenced Thanksgiving by asking President Franklin D. Roosevelt not to issue the Thanksgiving Proclamation for the last Thursday in November that year as it would be on November 30, leaving only 24 shopping days until Christmas. And so they begged FDR to move Thanksgiving one week early.
President´s Roosevelt change was not without controversy, calendars were now obsolete, school holidays needed to be adjusted. Political enemies of FDR used it to attack the President as driven by his supporters in the retail business. Confusion over the date change was tearing the holiday apart.
The U.S. Congress took action, and on December 26, 1941,. Congress passed a law declaring that Thanksgiving would occur every year on the fourth Thursday of November.
So you see, consumer spending has been trying to manipulate Thanksgiving´s proximity to Christmas Shopping for at least 74 years.
The economy is important of course and jobs are necessary to us all. Therefore, I am not in no way over dramatizing or romanticizing the holidays, nor am I suggesting that a job is not important. I simply encourage all of us to remember that family time and togetherness are at the core of a stable nation. As human beings, we need a sense of belonging. Belonging to a clan or tribe is imbedded in our subconscious since time in memoriam. Let´s make sure that we take Thanksgiving Thursday to be with one another, to laugh together, to cheer our favorite team, to eat a slice of a good pie.
Let´s leave the shopping for another day.
Thanksgiving Day is for family. Don’t let retailers push you into spending the day shopping and away from your loved ones. Black Friday is all well and good and it is a great marketing idea designed to stimulate Christmas Shopping.
I encourage you to celebrate Thanksgiving Day to the fullest. Take the time to say thank you to the Lord and to your family.