The media is making a firestorm out of a new holiday outrage some are calling The War on Thanksgiving. Silly as it all seems the rhetoric of politics never has a down season. There are several polarizing modern talking points about Thanksgiving this year:
• PETA doesn’t want you eating animals for Thanksgiving…because they are sexually assaulted.
• Your carbon footprint matters. The food of Thanksgiving isn’t the problem. Travel for Thanksgiving is.
• Thanksgiving is best celebrated in St. Paul, Minnesota.
• Stores being closed on Thanksgiving is something of a moral badge of honor. Too bad that’s all a lie.
• How to talk politics around the Thanksgiving table
• The Charlie Brown Thanksgiving of Plymouth Rock…never happened, evidently, and…oh yeah, it’s racist
• Pringles released a limited line of Thanksgiving themed…potato chips. They are selling for $150 a can on eBay.
• Don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, embrace Friendsgiving instead.
Clearly, as a society, we’re dealing with a lot of stuff(ing) when it comes to Thanksgiving.
How in the world did we ever get here and what do you do about all this noise about Thanksgiving?
Relax. This is nothing new.
After all, Stan Freberg recognized it in 1961 when he produced “Take an Indian to Lunch”:
Thanksgiving, contrary to popular belief, is not an American-born holiday. It was a thing long before America came to be.
Gratitude, it seems, never falls out of fashion. And guess what?
It is a principle everyone can embrace.
That is, after all, the main idea, right? Gratitude? Acknowledgement of the good life? Yeah, we can all agree that life is good. If only for a day.
With that noble thought in mind, let’s do some myth busting with all the modern talk about Thanksgiving:
There’s nothing problematic with the history of Thanksgiving. – There is an element of society that stands in criticism of all history. Slavery, polygamy, racism and countless other societal ills – these are facts of history. Because they were a reality in previous eras is no reason to denounce the holidays we get from those same time period. We are neither responsible for those things nor do we give them any nod of approval by celebrating seasons such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
There is no War on Thanksgiving. – According to a Harris poll in 2015 more than 95 percent of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, arguably making Thanksgiving the most universal holiday in America. If there is a war, it’s a slaughter.
Speaking of slaughter, Thanksgiving is not a food holiday. As PETA thankfully points out, it’s no time to be a turkey. But it ain’t about a bird. Thanksgiving embraces central ideas of gratitude – of just being grateful for the blessings of our lives. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Nobody does Thanksgiving to worship a bird, a sauce, or a side of cranberries. There is near-worship of pumpkin pie. But even that is not what Thanksgiving is about.
Shut up about the separation of Church and State. That argument belongs to Christmas. We ignore it when it comes to Thanksgiving – every president since, oh, George Washington, has invoked the name of God and called the nation to prayer in Thanksgiving proclamations. What do we hear from the Church vs. State Separatists? We hear “amen”. We don’t know why, we just find it ironic. If they hear Christmas carols mentioning Christ in a Veteran hospital we get nothing but lectures. But Thanksgiving gets a pass. Go figure.
Friendsgiving is fine. But let’s call Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. – Gatherings of friends versus families at Thanksgiving is nothing new (What was Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving for pete’s sake?). So suddenly Thanksgiving becomes about friends instead of…thanks? No thanks.
Potatoes have a place at Thanksgiving. Just not potato chips. – Pringles is selling Pringles, not Thanksgiving. They are a summer food. Stop it.
Charlie Brown got a lot of it right. – This history of “the first Thanksgiving” was born of 19th century sensibilities. What we get in culture through movies and music for our holidays now is exactly what happened when Thanksgiving was made a formal holiday in the mid-19th century. Not only was acknowledging the Puritan celebration of Thanksgiving a thing but so-too was it a big deal to connect oneself to the Mayflower. If you could prove your descendancy you were important. That was a 19th century fad. So some things got romanticized when it came to “the first Thanksgiving”. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen at all. Charlie Brown got it mostly right.
Thanksgiving is no time for shopping. That can happen after Thanksgiving, thank you. – Society in recent years has kicked back at retailers who opened their stores on Thanksgiving. All of a sudden, retailers are praised for keeping their stores closed so their “team members can enjoy the holiday with their families”. That’s hogwash, by the way. Marketing. All those stores that are “closed” still have their websites humming – with “doorbusters” all day long on Thanksgiving Day – keeping those employees at work. At least Walmart, Target and others who remain open on Thanksgiving are honest about. They are greedy, but honest. If we really revered the sanctity of Thanksgiving we wouldn’t patronize stores or websites on that day.
In reality there is nothing truly problematic with Thanksgiving except listening to the voices in the media who have some sort of agenda to pursue.