Thanksgiving is the neglected stepchild of the holiday season. No sooner do stores discount the Halloween candy, then Christmas sales begin. Thanksgiving decorations have become as rare as wild turkeys in November.
As we stumble from one holiday to the next, it’s easy to succumb to the stress that arises while we juggle the accompanying obligations. I often find myself surrounded by things about which I could complain (like re-writing the previous sentence so it didn’t end with a preposition).
Thanksgiving, however, is meant to be an oasis of serenity amid the chaos of our celebration.
True to its origins, Thanksgiving remains an opportunity to embrace the extended families that exist beyond the bonds of mere genetics. We celebrate it on a Thursday, an anomaly among the undated national holidays that normally occur on Mondays.
There’s not much documented reasoning for this other than the fact that Puritan colonists often reserved Thursdays for religious lectures in New England. As such it frequently becomes a four-day weekend for many businesses, and therefore one of the longer breaks of the year that doesn’t use our vacation days.
The notable exception, of course, are the retail businesses who’ve pirated the following three days under the flag of Black Friday, monetizing this family time in a way that would make even Hallmark blush.
The Thanksgiving holiday, at its core, is one of the few days on the calendar year that asks us to get off the merry-go-round and pause to appreciate what we’ve been given. Its purpose is not merely to remember a person or commemorate a date. The beautiful simplicity of the day is to give thanks for everything we take for granted: The smile that lingers on the face of a child; the biopsy that comes back negative; the comforting hand that settles on our shoulders when we need it most. We are reminded to be grateful for forgiveness when we don’t deserve it and bounty when we haven’t earned it.
It’s sharing a meal with people we love and providing meals for people we don’t know. It’s spending time with family when we’re either young enough to resent all those displays of affection or old enough to appreciate that this affection somehow survived. It’s a time to celebrate all those people who lifted us up with invisible hands and limitless hearts.
It’s also a time to unload the last of the Halloween candy before it settles permanently onto our hips.
I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to write this column every two weeks. I’ve met many amazing people while writing for Hersam Acorn newspapers, and countless others have taken the time to write me over the course of these last five years to let me know that my words have touched them. I couldn’t be any luckier.
I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving and lifetime of invisible hands to hold you aloft.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.