Alan Braunholtz: Love Thanksgiving, hate what follows
Vail, CO, Colorado
We have Abraham Lincoln to thank for this feast on the last Thursday of November. He declared Thanksgiving a national holiday and arbitrarily selected this date in 1863. Only then did it become the prominent celebration it deserved.
Late November is a particularly great choice. It heralds the start of ski season and keeps Christmas carols at bay until December.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s so simple and beautiful with little commercialization. Friends, a lot of food and football ” that’s all humans need for a good time. Everything else is marketing fluff and not needed at Thanksgiving. No cards, no fragile and unreliable decorations and no ever-more-expensive gifts. These are all superfluous to this basic get-together that creates more enjoyment and appreciation than all the others.
Thanksgiving has a great message: Say thanks for being alive. We have but a brief flash of jubilant existence in the passage of space’s vast dark time, and we should pause every now and then to enjoy the moment and what we have.
Sadly, the day after Thanksgiving this concept of simple appreciation of yourself, your family and friends is submerged by the impatient arrival of Christmas marketing and materialism. Gifts equal love and more gifts means more love seems to be the message of Christmas these days. Simply being there for your family isn’t enough.
Traditionally this all starts on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. This is also “Buy Nothing Day” for those horrified by this. It’s a campaign not so much to stop
people shopping but to think about why and what you consume.
A 24-hour fast clears out the system and gives time for reflection and a different perspective. It’s also really tough to do. Like all addicts, we don’t realize how addicted we are.
Try living for 24 hours on what you already own ” living off the food in your fridge, make a sandwich for lunch, no Cokes, no trinkets, etc. Just make do with what you have. Much of the world has to make do with a lot less than we do. We have a lot to be thankful for.
We shop for entertainment more than need these days. This seems to be a waste of life, really. Why work at jobs we may not like so we can spend time buying things we don’t need for a temporary jolt of pleasure before wanting more again?
The Mall of America in Minneapolis has more than 40 million visitors a year. All of Colorado’s ski areas get over 12 million skier visits. You have to throw in all the visits to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Washington, D.C., before you match the Mall of America.
Would you rather spend your flash of life in the natural cathedral of Yosemite or in a manipulative chain store temple to consumerism? Sadly, most of us choose the chain store.
Asking people to buy less stuff so they can spend more time living with their family and friends is heresy in our economic system, which is married to the impossibility of ever increasing growth. The Adbusters online journal creates some entertaining ads to promote “Buy Nothing Day,” but almost no mainstream media will air them out of fear of upsetting our modern gods of Mammon.
The collapse of our financial house of cards provides a good chance to re-examine our endless desire for more growth and what this costs us. Eventually it’ll create a collapse based on breakdowns in the environmental systems we rely on instead of financial ones. This will be worse.
Consumer confidence isn’t high right now so give yourself and others the gift of time and attention rather than stuff, which rarely delivers the happiness and friends the advertisers promise.
The documentary film “What would Jesus Buy?” featuring the Reverend Billy and the gospel choir of the Church of Stopshopping, provides a quick mental checklist for anyone sidling up to a cash register: Why am I here? Do I need it? What happens if I wait? How will I pay? and Where will I put it?
Most of my trips to a mall don’t survive the first question. A Thanksgiving meal provides quick and no-nonsense answers to all of these except for perhaps the last one if you’re wearing tight pants.
Thank President Lincoln for Thanksgiving, and pity we don’t have more of them.
Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a column for the Daily. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.