Thanksgiving: A holiday or the trigger for the countdown to Christmas?

Last week, as I turned into my neighborhood, my 4-year-old pointed out that it was time for Daddy to start putting up Christmas decorations.  (Or as I think of it, doing a “Griswold” on our house.)  In the midst of my explanation that it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet, and Christmas decorations don’t go up until after Thanksgiving, he yelled from the backseat, “But Mommy, they’re doing it!”  I looked over and sure enough, a week before Thanksgiving and one of my neighbors is setting up inflatables, hanging lights, and otherwise setting the bar for what my husband will try to top this year.  (But that is another, more comedic, blog.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations popping up since Halloween decorations began coming down, and one case the two were up that the same time.  You can’t turn on the TV without seeing an ad for Black Friday sales.  This morning, I went on-line to buy tickets to take the kids to see Virginia’s Legendary Santa and discovered that dates are already selling out!  We’ve been seeing Santa’s “twin brothers” or cousins for previous years, but this year the boys are at the right ages (4 & 7) that it will be special, so I sprang for the tickets to avoid a potential 2 hour wait.  I just couldn’t believe that the reserved dates were already selling out.

It really bothers me that Thanksgiving seems to be fading out in our haste to dive into the commercialism of Christmas.  Or is it that we don’t recognize how much we have to be thankful for so we brush this holiday aside as nothing more than a kick-off to Christmas?

Even my mother, the queen of holiday family entertaining, almost cancelled our family Thanksgiving dinner this year because she has so much going on to get ready for the Christmas season.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like Thanksgiving.  I have to say that it is one of my favorite holidays.  I even like decorating for Thanksgiving.  There’s something comforting about the colors of fall.  Candles in warm burgundy, gold, and various hues of green with woodsy scents; potted mums on doorsteps with pumpkins or gourds around them; and wreathes featuring leaves, cornucopia of fall produce, and the earthy shades of the season; a transition of sorts between the harsher motifs and colors of Halloween and the bright lights and vibrant reds of Christmas. 

To me, it is a family focused holiday.  It is about reconnecting.  When we were children, we were all involved with meal preparation, the decorations, and of course the clean up afterwards.  As young adults, we often were guests to the meal, but reconnected during the clean-up.  Triumphs and personal tragedies were shared while cleaning up the dishes and dividing up the leftovers among us.  It was often this holiday when engagements, due dates, and promotions were announced, while Mom and Dad enjoyed a few peaceful moments over coffee or an after dinner drink watching the adults that their children had become.  As we began to have families of our own, we would arrive bearing some part of the meal so that Mom didn’t have to do all the cooking for 15 or more.  The single or childless ones would still arrive early to help with set up and as those states changed, it was the older grandchildren who would be dropped off early to help.  We siblings and spouses still connect over doing the dishes and dividing up the leftovers, while Mom and Dad enjoy and after dinner coffee or drink, but there aren’t a lot of peaceful moments until we all leave since there are 9 grandchildren ranging from 4 to 22 interacting, or not, with each other.  Until last year, there were four generations of women in our family at these meals, but we lost the 103 year old matriarch of the family last fall and the next generation has not yet begun, but with the oldest of the current brood at 22, I suspect that will be changing before long.

This is also a holiday for reflection of a different manner than the religious or spiritual reflections of Christmas or the resolutions to be made for the New Year.  While the traditional story of Plymouth Rock is associated with the holiday of Thanksgiving, it was but one of many thanksgivings in America’s history and as such becomes a holiday for all Americans to think about what we, or our ancestors, overcame to live in this country.  It doesn’t matter whether your ancestors were here to begin with and overcame the arrival of others, or your ancestors braved hostile oceans, or border crossings to get here: it is a holiday to recognize how much we have to be thankful for.  As someone whose ancestry includes a mix of people who were here to begin with, those who came to exploit the bounties of this new world, those who fled here to escape intolerable conditions in their homeland, and those who had no choice about coming here; to me, this holiday embodies the dream and the promise of America.

Socio-, economic, and political issues aside, there is still much for us to be thankful for.  I hope that we all stop in our rush to start the countdown to Christmas and enjoy this holiday for what it is.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead reviews books for Crystal Reviews ( and writes paranormal romance. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


Filed under life, Mairead Wapole, musings, writing

7 responses to “Thanksgiving: A holiday or the trigger for the countdown to Christmas?

  1. Amen, Mairead. I’ve long since been a Grinch of sorts when it comes to many holidays.

    Like you, I’ve been seeing ads for Black Friday for a week now, which overshadows the meaning of Thanksgiving.

    Memorial Day is no longer a day of remembrance, but instead a weekend of barbecues and sporting events to kick off the summer season.

    Christmas decorations have been going up in my neighborhood for the past 10 days. On my way home today I saw a sleigh and reindeer stopped in front of a manger scene, as if Santa were delivering gifts to the Christ infant.

    I can see putting decorations up early because the weather has been nice; but how about leaving the lights off until December?

    And don’t get me started on Christmas. No longer is it a celebration of the birth of a savior; it has become the measuring stick for how well the economy is doing.

    Not only is it sad, it’s downright disrespectful.

  2. Good points, Mairead. Happy Thanksgiving. (Actually, they are even taking the thanks out of Thanksgiving. Too many people just say, “Happy Turkey Day.”

  3. “a transition of sorts between the harsher motifs and colors of Halloween and the bright lights and vibrant reds of Christmas.”
    Very nice and fitting description of the color scheme.
    Thanksgiving has always been the one time each year for my extended family to get together. Christmas was always too complicated for everybody.

  4. Thanksgiving can also be a holiday in which people who are short on family can celebrate together–a kind of stray cat turkey dinner. We’ve done this several times, and had a lot better time than we’ve done at some family command performances.

    I too noticed this pre-Thanksgiving leap into Xmas, and it’s more than usually depressing.

  5. Pingback: Grateful Even in Grief « Bertram's Blog

  6. Kat

    Interesting post on Thanksgiving!

  7. christinehusom

    Very nice. Yes, I too enjoy decorating for Thanksgiving, and am truly thankful for all my blessings. Way too much commercialism in our holidays now.

    There is no pressure as we gather for dinner on Thanksgiving–no hurry–as there are no gifts the children are eager to open, as at Christmas. A wonderful together time and I love the smells of Thanksgiving dinner!

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