They wouldn’t want us to skip Thanksgiving


Welcome to Flashback Friday!  Since today is the first Friday in November, it seemed a good time to take a look at our country’s holiday.

Some of you might be asking: “Thanksgiving?  What Thanksgiving?”  – because the stores jumped right from the Halloween decorations to Christmas decorations on November 1st.

Retail “Blindness”

Nearly all of us rant at one time or another: “How FAR will those money-grubbing retailers push back Christmas?  Fourth of July?”  (The answer, actually, is that it won’t get pushed back any further than it already is; Halloween is a fairly decent money-maker by itself, and marketers aren’t oblivious to Christmas shopping fatigue.  They shop, too.)

The problem with Thanksgiving, from a retail point of view, is that there aren’t expensive products to sell.  Gold-plated turkeys as Thanksgiving gifts go over like lead balloons, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor.  Grocery stores, airlines, gas stations, and toll-booths are the main cash beneficiaries of Turkey Day.

Another problem for retailers is that Thanksgiving is a time of – wait for it – giving Thanks. (Yep, came up with that all by myself, lol).  But it’s not giving thanks for the iPad, salad spinner, or Tonka truck someone saw fit to buy for you.  It’s less tangible than that, and it’s tough to market intangibles.

The History:

On October 29, 1897, President MacKinley signed the law that declared the 4th Thursday in November as the national holiday of Thanksgiving.  Keep in mind that only four years earlier, the nation had been plunged into the worst economic depression it had ever seen (the “Panic of ’93”), and was still recovering from.

Here’s the October 30, 1897 NYT article about the signing, with MacKinley’s speech:


Embracing the intangibles; aka, counting our blessings

Now, 114 years later, what do we give thanks for?  Of course, it varies widely: the delight of hassling the teenager fresh home from college, deflecting the mother-in-law who criticizes our cooking, having a turkey in the oven that we can overcook – all good possibilities.  We also share the blessings of a century ago, including that “free government” thing MacKinley mentioned.

And we know it’s not just a few introspective souls who appreciate these things.  How do we know this?  If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, you’re surrounded by folks who “get” it, too.

Ah, but maybe it’s the food?

Is Mom’s cooking, on that particular day, worth the gridlock on the Garden State Parkway (which certainly lives up to its name at that point), the long airport lines, or the crowded trains?  Doubtful.

Whether we are the travelers or the hosts (yay – the bathroom’s clean!), we know that we crave this experience, of belonging to part of a family/nation/tribe/what-have-you.  And yes, we’re grateful for it, despite traffic hassles, family frictions, or having to eat at the “kiddie” table.

What do you think of retail Thanksgiving blindness?  How do you like to celebrate Thanksgiving?  Any eccentric family members you have to put up with this time of year?  I’d love to hear from you.

Gobble, gobble,


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24 thoughts on “They wouldn’t want us to skip Thanksgiving”

  1. KaraKara

    Wonderful post. I have to admit I have gone back in forth on ignoring all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving to trying to be in a Christmas frame of mind, but still very mindful of Thanksgiving. I’ve decided Thanksgiving needs to be moved up a couple of weeks:) Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I hate that it is so sandwiched between two other holidays. And the whole retail thing, they just drive me crazy!

  2. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Kathy – Thanks so much for the background on how Thanksgiving became a national holiday. I have much to be thankful for, and it’s nice to have a time to remind us of that. I couldn’t be more glad, too, that the retailers haven’t co-opted Thanksgiving. I can see it now: “Show them how thankful you are for them – buy them a ______.” *shudder*

  3. Myndi ShaferMyndi Shafer

    Love this post. Thanksgiving is my favorite and my best because, like you said, it’s simply a time to be thankful. To love on each other as a family without any expectations save for enjoying each other’s company. I love this post. (So much so that I’m repeating myself like a broken record!)

  4. Tim L O'BrienTim L O'Brien

    Really enjoyed the post. Thanksgiving has always been a family favorite. Fondest memories of this as a child was always watching college football – Oklahoma vs. Nebraska. Seemed like my whole world revolved around the outcome of that game. Now they don’t even play each other anymore. I love the excitement of this holiday as my brothers and sister all arrive back in town. No greater joy than sitting around a table of 20 and enjoying the big feast!

  5. Kerry MeachamKerry Meacham

    One more thing to be thankful for; good online friends like you. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Kathy. ~clink~

  6. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    Fantastic post, Kathy! I’m one of those annoying folks who actually love pushing Christmas earlier… 😉 That said, I’m finally loving Thanksgiving, too. I never *disliked* it per say, I just figured I’m generally thankful, a big meal is just a big meal and I’ve spent many turkey days away from most of my family.

    Last year began a new tradition of spending Thanksgiving with extended family members in a festive town that features a huge holiday parade. It’s what we make of it, right? Hope yours is bright!

  7. Julie GloverJulie Glover

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – especially when you share cooking duties with family or friends. There isn’t all of the pressure involved with many other special days that require a costume, umpteen gifts, or Hallmark cards and flowers. It’s just a meal with people you love and a time of being grateful.

    Thanks for sharing the McKinley proclamation. I’m always interested in the history of things, and I had never read that one.

  8. Ellie AnnEllie Ann

    that’s a cool NYT article, it was cool to read it. And THANKS for the reminder to always give thanks.

  9. Stacy GreenStacy Green

    What an interesting post! I get so sick of seeing Christmas decorations in the stores – and some of ours had them a few days before Halloween. I know Thanksgiving isn’t a big money maker, but geesh. Retail makes it hard to get in the Xmas spirit.

    Thanks for the reminder:)

  10. marshallmarshall

    I HATE how stores skip turkey day, It actuallly makes me wamt to shop less.

  11. Sonia G MedeirosSonia G Medeiros

    We keep Thanksgiving rather calm. We usually don’t travel. If we do, we travel the day after Thanksgiving and have another Thanksgiving with our out of town family. We share foods we love and, since Thanksgiving is now always at my house, I get to be queen of the kitchen. Anyone with attitude gets sent out to watch the game…except for my kitchen slaves – I mean my hubby, brother-in-law and the kiddos. Somebody’s got to help me stir the gravy and make the biscuits. 😀

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