“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go …”
Driving through McNairy County, Tennessee recently, I almost ran off the road when my eyes left the highway for a frozen moment and landed on one of the biggest and brightest Christmas displays I’ve seen. Some halls are being decked, it seems, and it’s not even Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving. The lost holiday. Sandwiched in between all the haunted hoopla of Halloween and the commercialization of Christmas.
Weeks before Halloween, I went in search of some trick-or-treat candy. Store shelves were stocked with sugary confections of every kind. There were costumes, face-fixing paraphernalia, noise-making devices, trick-or-treat bags and buckets of every size.
On the next aisle, it was Christmas. With only a few steps, we made this enormous commercial leap from Oct. 31 to Dec. 25 – with no stopping in between to give thanks.
I did finally locate a few symbols of Turkey Day – paper plates, table cloths and napkins scattered with pilgrims, pumpkins and pies. The Thanksgiving shelves were sparse, to say the least.
I have always loved Christmas. I admit I feel a little light-headed each year when the temperature drops below 90 degrees, seasonal sounds are pumped into stores, and trees, tinsel and other telltale signs of Christmas take center stage. It just seems to get earlier every year. “Slow as Christmas” long ago stopped being an appropriate phrase.
When I was a kid, the Christmas foreshadowing rarely started until the day after Thanksgiving – and even that was too early for some. After the trick-or-treat candy was consumed and our costumes put away for another day, we started anticipating the coming of Thanksgiving.
It was a holiday that excited us.
For me, Thanksgiving was the gateway to Christmas. But it has always and also been a good holiday in its own right.
On Christmas Day, there’s no sleeping late. Even as an adult, I find there’s an internal alarm that makes certain I’m awake before dawn. But Thanksgiving has always been different.
There are no surprises from Santa, no presents to unwrap, so sleeping a little later is a possibility. In my memories of Thanksgivings past, the only early-morning sounds came from the kitchen – my dad preparing the turkey for the oven and my mom baking the pumpkin pie only she would eat.
If we weren’t awake before the first band commenced to march for Macy’s, Daddy would summon us. There’d be no grumbling. We’d get right up, find a spot on the sofa and settle in for the famous Thanksgiving Day parade.
By the time Santa and his eight reindeer rolled down Broadway, ushering in the Christmas season, a cornucopia of smells hovered in our house. Dinner was still hours away, so my sister and I would sneak deviled eggs and black olives to silence our growling stomachs.
Thanksgiving is the day we’ve always been encouraged to give thanks for any and all things good in our lives. It’s a good way to prepare for the coming of Christmas.
And it is coming, this holiday of holidays. But in the holiday queue, Thanksgiving’s up next. So, sleep late, watch a parade, eat some turkey.