As I drive around town, I see the signs of Christmas; there are lights, wreaths, and yard decorations around every corner.
It feels like only yesterday was Halloween, and while I understand that putting up Christmas lights is much easier before the brunt of Nebraska winter hits, I cannot help but notice that as the trees, lights and shopping ads go up, Thanksgiving is cast aside sooner and sooner each year. Thanksgiving is not only an important part of American history, but also a time to remember and thank those who give so that we may get.
Let’s face it: Thanksgiving draws the short straw when it comes to holiday excitement. With fun costumes, free candy, and a good excuse to stay out late, Halloween is a tough act to follow, and with the thrill of Christmas just a few weeks away, why would anyone want to wait around for Thanksgiving? After all, it gets in the way of those Black Friday deals. Even with the turkey, potatoes, and mouthwatering pumpkin dessert, Thanksgiving simply cannot measure up. There are no lights, no trees, no Santa Claus, and perhaps the biggest downfall — no presents. Perhaps the main reason why Thanksgiving is so overlooked is that unlike Halloween and Christmas, it is not about getting something, but about giving something.
The pilgrims at Plymouth knew what it meant to give; they gave up their homes, their security, and in many cases, their lives, all for what many today call the American Dream — the ability to live, work, and worship freely. Having separated from the Church of England and fled from poor economic conditions in Holland, the pilgrims started anew in America, where they faced and overcame extreme challenges, losing nearly half of the original settlers to a harsh winter. After a successful harvest, the pilgrims and local Native Americans came together for a three-day feast to celebrate and give thanks to God. The idea was without a doubt essential to the founding of America; Thanksgiving was observed by the Continental Congress throughout the Revolutionary War and by George Washington in 1789. In 1863, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, agreeing with the campaign started by author Sarah Josepha Hale.
Even during war and strife, the founders saw it necessary to continue the tradition of giving thanks, which says something for a holiday that in today’s world is quickly lost in the whirlwind of trick-or-treating and Christmas shopping. But where does it go? The answer: it is cut into pieces like a pumpkin pie. Taking one slice are the stores; Black Friday sales once limited to, rather obviously, Friday, are now taking over Thanksgiving with deals beginning as early as 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and many stores once closed for the holiday no longer recognize it as anything more than another day to make money. Another slice belongs to football, pulling attention away from the origins of Thanksgiving faster than Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. With everyone’s attention divvied out between the business and entertainment that exists year-round, there is little to no time left for the family and friends whose next Thanksgiving is never guaranteed.
In an age of push-button convenience, it is very easy to take things for granted, but there is merit in slowing down, putting the wish list away, and taking time to reflect on the blessings we have both individually and as a nation. I am thankful for my family and friends, and that they have not forgotten the meaning of Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the veterans who have defended and still defend our nation and its freedoms. For all that I have, I will thank God — the same God Whom the pilgrims thanked, Whose name is written on our currency, and Whose name we use in our pledge of allegiance.
This Thanksgiving, I will not just savor every bite of turkey, but also every moment with my friends and family, and I challenge everyone to do the same. While giving thanks does not provide the same instant gratification as getting candy or presents, it is an American tradition and moreover, the right thing to do. There is no doubt that Abraham Lincoln knew what he was doing in placing Thanksgiving in late November; the autumn leaves are beautiful, the harvest is plentiful, and the holiday serves as a reminder to remain thankful for all that we have.