Holiday (II)

Here in the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, a fine idea for a holiday that is nevertheless in perpetual danger of being swamped by the 600-pound-gorilla that is Christmas. (That’s right, I just compared the birthday of the Son of God to a gorilla. Take that, creationists!) In other words, Thanksgiving might just be the most American holiday there is, a kind of calendrical Lagrange point between sentimental gratitude for the stuff we have and mania for acquiring more stuff. And thus it’s always been—witness the years 1939 to 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt bumped Thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday in November to the third, at the presumed sales-boosting behest of Lew Hahn, president of both the Retail Dry Goods Association and the era’s largest department-store holding company. (Since it wasn’t yet a national holiday, states could follow FDR’s lead or not, and when one celebrated Thanksgiving became a barometer of political opinion.)

Back then, it was actually considered in poor taste for stores to put up Christmas decorations and have Christmas sales prio to Thanksgiving, a bit of social pressure that seems downright quaint nowadays; I saw places this year putting out their Christmas merchandise prior to Hallowe’en. I am, myself, a purist—nothing remotely yuletide-ish goes up until after Thanksgiving, my own small Maginot Line against the day when the Christmas retail season colonizes so much of the calendar that Thanksgiving becomes a kind of cult holiday. It’s kind of like ostentatiously ignoring round-number anniversaries of Mozart’s death (1791) in favor of Prokofiev’s birth (1891).

Every year, I do two things on Thanksgiving: eat enormous quantities of my mom’s stuffing, and harangue everybody reading this space to cough up a few bucks to the anti-hunger charity of your choice. (Here at Soho the Dog HQ, it’s The Greater Boston Food Bank—you can search for your local equivalent here.) Why should this year be any different? No good reason I can think of. Traditions are so heartwarming, after all.

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