Welcome to that most self-righteous time of year when even a glint of holiday cheer in your eye can merit a terse response of “I still celebrate Thanksgiving, thank you very much.”
Stow it, hypocrites.
Whether it's your passive-aggressive coworker huffing about stores hosting Thanksgiving sales nobody is making her shop or Nordstorm smugly asserting that it won't decorate it's stores with so much as a sprig of holly until after Thanksgiving, all of the lobbying on Thanksgiving's behalf seems a bit... labored. Sure there's some understandable pushback against retailers who've started their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, but what exactly are you fighting for, here?
Are you battling for Thanksgiving's sacred day on the calendar? Against the forces of consumerism? For your family's undivided attention? For just one traditional turkey dinner in peace? Because -- and we've wanted to tell you this for some time -- none of that really has to do with Thanksgiving. Tradition, country and even religion have about as much to do with Thanksgiving as throwing elbows over cheap 4K televisions.
In fact, while you and Nordstrom were congratulating each other on just how little you care about the winter holidays before Thanksgiving and scolding Home Depot and Costco for having Christmas trees available, we were compiling the following list of all the ways your righteous indignation isn't all that righteous. In fact, it's some of the most misplaced anger you've felt since that cashier at your supermarket wished you happy holidays to cover Christmas, New Year's and any other holiday you might be marking and you responded with a high-volume “Merry Christmas.” Not every string of Christmas lights seen in mid-November is a strike against your core values and not every Thanksgiving Day sale is a slight against the United States of America.
Sometimes, Thanksgiving is just a holiday you're celebrating on the wrong day with the wrong food in the wrong manner with half of your annual Christmas shopping hidden in the back of a closet. Here's why Thanksgiving doesn't need you to fight its battles for it:
1. We're celebrating only one of several Thanksgivings: The most common Thanksgiving tale we hear is that of is that of the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation holding their harvest feast with the Wampanoag tribe in 1621. Schoolkids for generations heard the story of Patuxet Native American Squanto, who taught the newly arrived Pilgrims how to grow corn and fish, and about Wampanoag leader Massasoit feeding the Pilgrims when their food supplies fell short.
If Thanksgiving were the movie industry, the Plymouth Thanksgiving and Massasoit's maintaining of the peace would be its seemingly implausible romantic comedy. The Virginia Thanksgivings, however, would be its horror story. The Jamestown Colony held a Thanksgiving celebration in 1610, and the small colony of Berkeley Hundred held a similar feast in 1619. However, these colonists and their Native American counterparts went in a different direction, however, as the Powhatan tribes slaughtered many of the settlers during the Indian Massacre of 1622. Reprisals by the remaining colonists included the decade-long seizure of Powhatan land by force and the poisoning of hundreds of Powhatans. However, even if we're just celebrating the less-bloody and more peaceful of the Thanksgiving feasts, it should be noted that...
2. We only started celebrating Thanksgiving 152 years ago: There is way more blood attached to that little Thanksgiving get-together of yours than you could possibly imagine.
While President George Washington first declared a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789, it wasn't celebrated annually as a national holiday until 1863. Abraham Lincoln only made it a holiday ago in an attempt to settle tensions between the North and South. However, since the South had already seceded, it didn't have much use for Lincoln's little holiday until about 1870. That's right: we didn't celebrate it together as a nation for almost a decade and even when we did...
3. It's been about shopping since the Great Depression:
We rarely even celebrate Thanksgiving on the day Lincoln set aside for it. While he wanted it on the final Thursday of November, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday of November back in 1939 to boost the economy a bit. So, yes, your relatives have been complaining about the commercialism of Thanksgiving for more than 75 years.
Oh, and if you think political conversations around the Thanksgiving table were awkward, then you should have heard them after Roosevelt. Republicans were furious about the move, mostly because they didn't want to change their calendars or the dates of vacation days and football games. On top of that, 22 states kept the old date, while three celebrated on both dates. Atlantic City mayor Thomas Taggart threw in his two most-Jersey cents by declaring the new date "Franksgiving." This went on until 1956, when Texas became the last state to stop using the old system.
And you can complain about Thanksgiving all you want now, but just remember that...
4. You're already doing your holiday shopping: Again, retailers can stay closed on Thanksgiving to their heart's content, but that isn't going to stop people from shopping on that day.
The National Retail Federation knows that 56% of you started your Christmas shopping by November 10. Not only that, but 40% of you started before October, and 81% of you will have started by the end of November. “Oh, but not until after Thanksgiving,” right? Wrong. Three years ago, the National Retail Federation noted that 35 million people were expected to start shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Even if stores take a principled stand and close, those people will still be shopping: online sales on Thanksgiving Day topped $1 billion for the first time last year, according to ComScore. That's more than the $926 million that shoppers spent on Free Shipping Day last year on December 8, well into the acceptable holiday shopping season.
Honestly, the folks out there shopping may as well be since...
5. You're doing Thanksgiving dinner wrong: Let's give you the benefit of the doubt and say you're doing your Thanksgiving Plymouth-style.
For starters, that celebration lasted for three days, and most of us still can't agree on giving workers that Thanksgiving Friday off. We get the turkey and corn parts right, but there were a lot more options on the original menu. Why are we settling on just Turkey when the folks at Plymouth were chowing down on goose, duck and venison, too? Also, where are the fish? The Pilgrims got some striped bass, bluefish, cod, lobster and mussels for their trouble. Also, why do we fill up on potatoes and cranberries, when the traditional sides are squash, pumpkin, cornbread and a little stew? Finally, get that Beaujolais Nouveau off the table and pour a beer, which was not only the only beverage that could make the trip aboard the Mayflower, but the only one the Pilgrims could make with their new harvest, which contained barley, but no grapes.
But it isn't as if you're going to dedicate a whole lot of time to sitting around the table anyway. No, you're going to start the day with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- the single highest-rated non-sports program of the fall that brought in 22.6 million viewers last year. Then 29 million of you will watch the Detroit Lions game, 32 million will watch the Dallas Cowboys and 22.9 million of you will have no trouble whatsoever cutting into Thanksgiving dinner to watch the late game. Some of you may curse your shopping relatives on the way out the door, but many of you will do so with one eye on kickoff as you head into the last third of your 12-hour football day -- because that's what Thanksgiving is all about.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.