Holiday,  Life

Thanksgiving: A Pause to Refocus

Social Media is full of articles and debates about how early is too early to put up Christmas decorations. I tend to fall on the Scrooge side of that debate and say that the ABSOLUTE earliest should be the day after Thanksgiving. Though, my preference would be to wait another week or so. Believe me, I’ve been given so much grief for this stance. Apparently limiting Christmas festivities means that I hate holiday cheer, family, and tradition. That’s not necessarily the case….

I have several reasons for wanting to delay the onslaught of red and green. The biggest reason is an overlooked holiday. We get so excited about the holidays, that we move straight from Halloween to Christmas. And who is left out? Thanksgiving. It’s a favorite holiday of mine, and one that is sorely overlooked. Kind of like a middle child, sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas.

So what makes Thanksgiving so special to me?

First, the simplicity of it. There isn’t a whole lot of preparation, with the exception of the wonderful person who cooks dinner. There aren’t boxes of decorations to set up; gifts to wrap, pack up, and share; outfits to coordinate for the perfect family photo. The pressure is lessened, and we can be freed up to enjoy the essence of the holiday without all the extras.

Second, the food. Christmas boasts some pretty amazing food, but I would argue that a Thanksgiving dinner is just as special. Honestly, I could give or take the turkey. I’ve enjoyed a meatless Thanksgiving dinner on occasion, mainly so I could make room for my real weakness- Thanksgiving sides. I am a carboholic, and Thanksgiving preys on that weakness. Stuffing, mac ‘n cheese, hash brown casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. I feel a nap coming on just thinking about it all!

But I think that the main reason I love Thanksgiving so much is because it’s a midweek holiday that gives me time to breathe for a second in preparation for the upcoming Christmas holiday. I really do enjoy Christmas, but if I could change one thing, I would lessen the busyness. Multiple plays, parties, family gatherings, traveling, and events. Our schedules become so hectic, that it’s hard to stop and really enjoy the moment and those around us.

There is added stress as our gift purchasing lists grow each year. As the holiday becomes more commercialized, we expect bigger and better gifts. We feel the pressure to outdo our giving and receiving each year. Greed, selfishness, and debt become common place. If not guarded against, Christmas can focus too much on what we did and didn’t get or give, and the fun is zapped right out of it.

This is where Thanksgiving succeeds. Expectations are low. It’s a cozy family dinner, At least in my life it has always been that way. It’s one day, where we stop and simply enjoy each other’s company without the busyness of running from one place to another and the pressure of gift giving.

I’d like to paint you a short picture of what my family’s Thanksgiving looks like. It’s fairly typical, with a few random traditions thrown in there. Everyone needs something random and quirky in their traditions!

The day starts early, with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. To this day, I still get up and go to my parents’ house on Thursday morning to sit and watch the parade. I loved it as a kid, and have not quite outgrown the magic of it yet. Right after Santa makes his entrance, we run down the street to my grandparents’ house where we begin to stuff our bellies full of all kinds of deliciousness. Then the turkey comas ensue. People began to disperse….either to a recliner to sleep or to the TV to watch some football.

Sounds normal so far? Here is where my family has instituted some different traditions. We have an annual Thanksgiving Day craft. Most of the time it is some little Christmas themed decoration- mini Christmas trees, ornaments, decorative blocks with Christmas sayings on them, etc. And there are always one or two mischievous crafters to decide to abandon the directions entirely and see what strange creation they can come up with given the same materials.

Not everyone moves to football after lunch. Years ago, we started watching the Thanksgiving episode of The Waltons. After so many years, we could recite it, so we branched out to other episodes. I love old TV shows, but The Waltons is strictly reserved for Thanksgiving Day.

In recent years we’ve added the tradition of the 6 PM Walmart run to catch any must have Black Friday deals. It keeps us from heading out in the wee hours of Friday and still let’s us check a few things off our list. Even if we didn’t really need anything, the trip itself has always been a lot of fun.

What does your family do to make Thanksgiving special? Whatever it is, soak it up. Use this Thursday as a chance to stop and catch your breath for just a second. I guarantee you that you will be busy enough in the coming weeks, so take a moment and stop to think on the things you are grateful for. To prepare for the upcoming holiday season. To make sure that our priorities are correct.

Even if it’s an overly-asked question, but I think it’s a good exercise to meditate on the things we are thankful for and to whom we owe that gratitude.

Maybe if we use Thanksgiving as a pause to refocus on what is important, we can head into the most commercialized, consumer driven holiday with a more accurate mindset. And maybe that refocus will keep us on track to celebrate the One to Whom we owe thanks for anything positive in our lives.

So I ask you. What are you thankful for this year? And how will you express that thanks, and live with an attitude of thankfulness all year long?

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever!”

Psalm 107:1

Your thoughts?