Holiday creep and the hand-wringing that comes with it are well documented.
Wait. That’s not quite right. It’s probably more accurately called shopping creep.
Not satisfied with the consumer Mardi Gras of Black Friday, retailers each year dig more deeply into the precious hours of Thanksgiving itself. One opens at midnight Friday, so another opens at 10 p.m. Thursday, then another at 8, and on it goes.
Count me among the hand wringers, but perhaps not for the usual reasons.
Let’s start with a little group confession. I thought I was the only one with this particular viewpoint, but my informal research – babbling with people, listening to corresponding babbling – turns up a nugget. So let’s all say this together: In our heart of hearts, many of us older than 12 cherish Thanksgiving more than we do the commercial version of Christmas.
It’s pretty simple. There are two Christmases. One, marking the birth of the Christ child, involves singing, praying and well-wishing in church. It’s a healthy tradition, though a tad overshadowed in the popular culture by the other Christmas – we could call it Xmas – the stressed-out weeks of family obligations, school concerts, relentless shopping and the nagging guilt of never getting to all that baking done or writing all those Christmas letters.
Thanksgiving has many of these elements without the drama. The plan is simple: Gather family. Then cook, pray, eat, burp. Football optional. And maybe, just maybe, a quiet moment of gratitude.
I know I am not alone in preferring the essential simplicity that makes this holiday different. So why do we let this one day of respite from everything we find wearying be eroded by those very things?
If I’m going shopping at 8 p.m., someone making $9 an hour and powerless to say no to the boss is excusing herself from the family gathering at 5 just so Baubles R Us can open on time. That’s messed up.
I won’t go shopping at 8 or midnight or any other uncivilized hour, and neither will most others. But lots will, and that’s all it takes. Sure, the retailers have a role here. They have it within their power to just say no – and they used to – but in a culture in which there is no such thing as enough, the very idea has become unthinkable.
The notion of “enough” – God has provided, and let’s acknowledge that – is also closely tied to the idea of giving thanks. But there is no “enough.” Look at the excess of Xmas, starting with Black Friday. Is it any wonder that the culture is drifting away from Thanksgiving?
At a fast-food drivethough the other day, the sign was already up: We’ll be open 24/7 on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
So there it is. Not a moment’s respite. Who on Earth needs a Whopper on Christmas morning? Probably the wrong question. One is tempted to ask if nothing is sacred, but one is afraid to ask it out loud for fear of the likely answer.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.