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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ronan the Accuser and the End of Thanksgiving?...

In 1863, as the nation endured the darkest and most painful period in its history, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving.  It was to be a day to be set aside for thanking God for all our blessings, gathering with family and reaching out to those in need. 

Norman Rockwell's Saying Grace...
In his proclamation, the President wrote, "I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverance and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged..."

It was a custom that had been around since the time of the pilgrims but was formalized into a national holiday at that time.  For generations since, Thanksgiving became traditionally known for family reunions, feasting like King Henry VIII (and those people at Disney World) on a turkey leg and gathering around the dinner table to give thanks to God. 

Everything shut down. Everyone was off from work to be with their families.  It was sacred; dare I say, holy.   

I recall many Thanksgiving days growing up at my grandparents' house, where we lived for many years, with my mom and grandmother cooking, my dad and grandfather setting up the tables and chairs, including our old ping pong table, and running last-minute errands, while some of the other of the adults sat around talking, telling jokes, drinking scotch ("palitos"), eating ham, cheese, saltine crackers and olives ("salaitos") and playing Benny More on the record player, as the us kids ran around playing or watching football.  

It was a day everyone looked forward to.  In fact, I remember everyone in our neighborhood having their own family reunions and celebration, as well.   

This would be a good place for Fiddler on the Roof's Tevye to interject, "Traditiooon! Tradition!"

That appears to be changing.

Let the games begin...
In the last few years, Black Friday, which was the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season, has crept into Thanksgiving.  

First, it started with stores opening at midnight, where every year some poor bloke would get trampled by overzealous shoppers wanting to be the first to get a great deal. Then, stores began to open after dinner to get a jump on the midnight shoppers and now, it has overlapped Thanksgiving altogether.

This year, several big box stores, including Walmart and Target, and large department stores are opening in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day and some malls are opening from early in the morning until midnight; just another day of shopping!

The day of family and prayer that Lincoln proclaimed has been replaced by a day of commercialization and consumerism.  The sacred has given way to the mundane.  

I don't know about you but, to me, it seems that, as a culture, we've taken our eyes off the ball, as Ronan the Accuser did when Star-Lord started challenging him to a dance-off at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy.

And, it's sad (not that Ronan got distracted, that was a good thing, but that we as a nation are distracted from what is really important!).  

It's sad to see the slow deterioration of our holidays, especially those with deep-seated religious roots, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's sad that some kids will never grow up with the same anticipation and reverence for Thanksgiving that we did as kids.  And, while my children will hopefully continue the traditions that my wife and I have established and pass it on to their own families, it's sad that some of their friends, especially those growing up without faith, will be less inclined to uphold the customs set forth by Lincoln.   

Unfortunately, it may be a consequence of the decay of the American family, where nearly half of all first marriages end in divorce (second and third fare even worse) and children grow up without a traditional mom and dad and extended family at the dinner table.  

Furthermore, it's sad that every year, the commercialization of Christmas starts earlier and earlier, to the point where Halloween (All Saints and All Souls Days) and Thanksgiving have blended into a muddled soup of end-of-the-year lead-in to the Big Event, relegating them to inconsequential status on their own.
It's all about making money and, for retailers, Christmas is the golden egg, regardless of the impact on Thanksgiving and family unity.

Nevertheless, although, there is no Civil War today as in the time of Lincoln, considering that we have just had the most divisive and toxic election season on record, which has left half the country upset and many protesting in the streets, it would seem proper that we, as a nation, would be more disposed to spending a little more time praying with family and friends, "thanking and praising our beneficent Father," and less time on 
materialism, consumption and dissipation.  One can only hope...  


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