Thanksgiving is not a sexy holiday. Any holiday when you stuff your face, waddle away from the table and loosen your pants before flopping onto the couch can’t be. Thanksgiving doesn’t have twinkling lights and over-the-top decorations, although I have noticed an increased number of inflatable turkeys on the lawns in our neighborhood. Thanksgiving has become a blip on the calendar. Christmas décor begins gracing store shelves in early October. Christmas themed commercials begin airing before we’ve even finished off the last of the leftover Halloween candy. The annual auditory assault of incessant Christmas music now begins before Thanksgiving.It’s no surprise that with the Christmas marketing blitz that begins earlier every year, the meaning of Thanksgiving is getting lost in the glitzy, tinsel covered shuffle. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It doesn’t require gifts or cards. You don’t need anything special to celebrate this holiday. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is spend some time, either before the turkey or after, reflecting on the good things in your life. It’s a day to come together with people you love (and maybe some people you can tolerate for a few hours once a year) to share a meal of traditional comfort foods. Unfortunately, because advertisers can’t sell gratitude, the meaning of Thanksgiving is being overlooked.
I work with pre-teens and teens and I reminded them that we would not be meeting this Thursday or Friday. To my great surprise they asked me why we wouldn’t be meeting on those days. This sparked a conversation that made my toes curl.
“We have off because Thursday is a holiday. What holiday is it?” I asked trying to jog their memories.
“I know,” said an eager young man, “it’s Black Friday.”
Unable to believe what I had heard, I repeated his statement, “Black Friday is this Thursday,” adding emphasis to the word Thursday hoping that would be enough to make him realize his mistake.
The young man’s eyes flashed with the recognition of his error and he said, “Oh, that’s right. Black Friday is this Friday, not Thursday. Duh!”
The other young man in the group then asked, “Why do we have off on Thursday then?”
Before I could intervene, the first young man answered, “We have off Thursday to get ready so we can go to the stores at midnight.” He then looked at me and very sweetly asked, “Do you celebrate Black Friday, Miss?”
I was processing the idea that these young men think that Black Friday is a holiday and before I could collect my thoughts to answer his question, the other young man in the group spoke up, “She doesn’t celebrate Black Friday! Remember? She’s Jewish.”
I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone or maybe I was being Punk’d. Not one of the kids had said a word about Thanksgiving. They actually believed that Black Friday is the holiday. We have two days off to conserve our energy, prepare our lists and map out our shopping strategies. Apparently all the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes we eat on Thanksgiving Thursday is just carbo-loading for the upcoming shopping marathon on the real holiday, Black Friday. To them, Thanksgiving is just Black Friday Eve. I was about to explain their misunderstanding when someone else in the group spoke up. “Miss, what happens when Black Friday isn’t on a Friday? Do they call it something else?”
I looked around for a video camera. Were they kidding me? They had to be. How can a holiday as important as Thanksgiving be completely lost on the younger generation? Pilgrims? Native Americans? A harvest feast? Doesn’t that ring any bells?
I felt it was my patriotic duty to explain the history and meaning of Thanksgiving to these young Americans. With the hype and constant commercials emphasizing Black Friday sales, it is no wonder they think that is the holiday we are celebrating.