Holiday hoopla seems to skip right from Halloween to Christmas these days, with Thanksgiving somewhat lost in the transition. A case in point is the early lighting of the magnificent holiday tree that is already standing in front of Alexandria’s Market Square fountain.
In years past, the tree lighting has occurred the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as “Black Friday.” This year, the tree lighting is Saturday at 6 p.m. – five days before Thanksgiving.
Presumably this year’s tree lighting is early because Thanksgiving is actually the latest possible date it can be, given that Nov. 7 was the first Thursday in November. Thanksgiving’s lateness results in a truncated holiday shopping season, which could be bad for local merchants.
Or maybe it’s a permanent change, regardless of when Thanksgiving falls, which would be a shame on multiple fronts.
Ponder what each holiday has come to emphasize: Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have. The secular Christmas of trees, Santa and shopping is about giving, yes, but also getting what we want. Think Lucy and Sally in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Thanksgiving is family, food and football. While those who prepare a bounteous meal for a large gathering are undoubtedly tired by Thanksgiving night, there’s little preparation other than the meal. It’s a short leadup to a day with family and friends.
Christmas has become weeks of shopping and decorating as parents strive to create a magical day for their children. There’s a lot of stress mixed with the joy, with the religious aspect often relegated to the background.
In our hectic, divided era, it’s somehow emblematic that the serenity of giving thanks has been subsumed in a mad gift-buying rush. The command-performance aspect of many Christmas and Hanukkah gatherings creates a logistical crunch that can feel overwhelming.
In recent years, there has been a push on some social media sites to consciously express gratitude. People are urged to list one thing each day for which they are thankful. While such posters can sometimes appear sanctimonious, the intent behind the effort is admirable. Being grateful is a worthwhile skill to cultivate, as it fosters tranquility. As the advice columnist Carolyn Hax says, a key to happiness is to want what we have.
We need a lot more Thanksgiving and a bit less Christmas. Too bad we’re getting the opposite.