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Good-Bye Old Friend
I must admit I did not know anything was wrong with him. He looked in the peak of health the last time I saw him. Granted, that was a year ago, but, while the rest of us have aged and changed, he kind of always stayed the same. A few more football games here and a few more basketball games there, but he was basically always the exact same. I know, I know, he was experimenting with turducken, but I figured it was like deep fried turkeys being the rage, a passing fade, something that would passed, and soon he would be his happy jolly self. Still sporting the look he had in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. They guy was timeless. Even when everyone was trying to get healthy, he was giving gluttony a good name.
So, I must admit it kind of surprised me when I saw in the newspaper that he was sick. There was a lot of talk, but I was pretty sure everyone loved him like I did. There might be a cough or two. Maybe he would have to take in some extra fluids. Still, I thought, next year, he’d be back the same old, same old. Imagine my surprise when I saw the headline. It was all over the news. I know some people had been planning his death for a long time. Still, I thought his friends would rally around him, give him the strength he needed to go on. I was wrong. Rest in peace, Thanksgiving. You were one of the last pure holidays and greed put a stake in your heart. You will be missed.
Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day were always holidays propped up by the greeting card manufacturers, the chocolate makers, and the flower shops. They have always carried those two holidays on their backs. Fifty percent of a florist’s business is done on those two days. One hundred and forty-five million cards are sold on Valentine’s Day and 133 million are sold on Mother’s Day. Cash registers are a ringing as men try to show the women in their lives that they love them and that they certainly are not cheapskates, even while cursing out Hallmark under their breath the whole time.
Easter used to be about Christians celebrating the death and rebirth of their Savior. Everybody went to church, thanked God for not killing them on an icy road during the winter, and ate together as an extended family. Now the savior is made of chocolate, has long ears, and is as hollow as the holiday has become. Hate to break this to you. Jesus did not die, descend into hell and rise again on the third day so you could enjoy chocolaty goodness and 20 percent off sales at the nearby mall. Retailers will tell you that they expect an 8 to 12 percent bump in sales thanks to dear Jesus’ sacrifice.
Halloween used to be about the kids and homemade costumes. Costumes became manufactured and candies prepackaged, but there is only so much profit to be made off the backs of kids, especially with nervous mothers who the other 364 days of the year are telling their children not to take candy from strangers.
At some point in the last two decades, adults with arrested development were let back in to enjoy the holiday. Halloween decorations are becoming almost as annoying as Christmas decorations around people’s homes. Women can pretend to be anything they dreamed of being when they were little girls as long as they are a slutty nurse, slutty cop, slutty pirate, let the cash registers ring. (I know some of you want to correct me and tell me women are not dressing slutty, but sexy. No, it is slutty. Here is the test. Look at the costume. Ask yourself what someone would say if you walked into your grandmother’s funeral wearing it. Would they go, “Who is that sexy cop?” or “Who’s the slut?” I rest my case. You can be sexy and still wear more clothes than the Coppertone girl. Slutty is always one size does not fit all or much of anything.
One must not forget the granddaddy of consumption holidays, Christmas and New Year’s. Christmas for centuries was a church event, secondary in importance to Easter. In fact, early Christians were proud that, unlike pagans, they did not celebrate the birth of their God. It was not until Charles Dickens and other reformers called for change that Christmas became a family holiday. There is a reason Scrooge finds the shops open Christmas morning so he can purchase his fatted goose.
While Fox is not alarmed by it, Christmas slowly became a retail holiday. People decorated their homes and yards with more lights than an airport runaway. It takes us more than three months for Americans to pay off the gifts they cannot afford. Even florists make a nice 30 percent of their flower sales during this season of the year. To put it in perspective, Jesus, a man who asked his followers to turn their backs on the material world and follow him, we celebrate his birthday with a big ol’ consumption orgy. It is like celebrating William Shakespeare’s birthday with a good old-fashioned book burning.
It is little wonder that giant big box retailers want to start this greed fest a little earlier. I have noticed Christmas stuff arriving at box stores as early as September and sitting in backrooms for a month or two. The earlier they can get the stuff on the floor, the bigger the pile of money the Walton family and their retail friends can swim in Christmas morning.
One little problem, most people don’t want to think about Christmas until they get through Thanksgiving. Even decades later, the last Thursday in November has not changed much. It is still about eating too much, staying around the house, unbuckling your belt, patting your belly, and falling asleep in front of the television.
Food is food, you just eat a bit more of it. The profit margin is just not there. Dad is not trying to break his neck putting a neon turkey on the roof. Nobody is driving around the community looking at the Thanksgiving lights. Tom the Turkey does not get kids sitting on his lap telling him what they want for Thanksgiving. There are no “Happy Thanksgiving” cards waiting in the mailbox for you.
For better or worse, Thanksgiving is still about family, and it cost retailers money. People want to be home with their families, even if they cannot stand them. You are not showing off the to neighbors. At best you are enjoying people you have not seen in months. At worse, you are thanking God you did not strangle them. It is our most un-capitalistic holiday. Even President’s Day gets a mattress sale. It is almost shocking that Glenn Beck isn’t babbling something about how Thanksgiving is a communist conspiracy.
For years, Black Friday has eased big box retailers’ pain. After eating too much and vegging out, Americans get to stand in long lines in cold weather to throw elbows and step on people to show their Christmas spirit. It is like going to a Buddhist retreat and having a football game break out. Clubbing your neighbor with the baby Jesus nativity set so your husband can grab the 60-inch HD-TV, nothing represents the love Jesus brought into the world more than that. Every time a cash register rings an angel gets his wings.
So, it was of little surprise that major retailers would like to start this greed-fest a little sooner. Get rid of that holiday where their aisles stand empty because people are enjoying the warmth of their homes. Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday, meet your new friend, Gray Thursday or Black Thursday, take your pick. (Why does any holiday that reminds me of my underwear make me nervous?)
So what if it takes the people who don’t get paid vacations away from their families? So what if it destroys the very meaning of what makes Thanksgiving special? It is my family’s right to get an Xbox One for a $100 off with an extra controller included, and you in the vest and nametag to sell it to me rather than staying home to enjoy your grandkids or siblings.
I would love to say there is something more important than profit, that America is built on the strengths of our families and their ability to bond and love each other. Thanksgiving still represents the best of our ideals of what we should be as people. We should do everything in our power to maintain it as a pure holiday, but giant retailers will always do what we really want them to do. So excuse me. I need to practice my hip checking because I am not going to let some old lady beat me to the last 20 percent off Margaritaville Margarita Maker next year.
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