One holiday keeps it real |

One holiday keeps it real

Alan Braunholtz

We’re lucky in the U.S. to have two major fall holidays to hold the ever-encroaching Christmas marketing back. Halloween and Thanksgiving do a fine job keeping those pesky mall Santas, Christmas lights and tingly sweet songs under wraps until now. A month is enough time for the anticipation to build, but not get sick of.

Thanks-giving is my favorite holiday and the one that remains the simplest. No gimmicks, toys, cards, costumes – just a huge traditional meal enjoyed with family and friends. That pleasant feeling of being soporifically well fed in a warm safe place is unmatched. Now I know why my dogs look so happy every night after dinner on the couch. It’s truly a “no worries” state of being.

Thanksgiving seems to be the travel industry’s chance to cash in on a traditional holiday, but that’s OK. More and more of us live farther from the folks than ever before, and investing money and time in maintaining relationships pays off much more than buying things.

New possessions/toys lose their novelty, they age, and they break. Friendships blossom over time, often growing into something more valuable and priceless every year.

Thanksgiving for me reinforces the value of people over possessions.

There is a balance to be found, but the pressures of our consumer society push us too far toward the mind set that the pursuit of happiness equals the pursuit of possessions.

Each November, in an otherwise bleak period of the year, a feast of camaraderie reminds us that this may not be true.

We have a habit of destroying, or at least compromising, our heritage if there’s stuff to be sold and profits made. So far, Thanksgiving looks to be holding its own, give or take a football game or two.

A modern American icon that isn’t faring so well looks to be Dr Seuss’s characters and messages. The preponderance of “Cat in the Hat” commercial accessories, breakfast cereals, etc., is depressing. A childhood icon is now just another name-recognition merchandising opportunity.

I remember the Cat as an independent, mischievous and elegant creature out to have fun. A perfect part for a cat. Cats don’t perform for others; they play for themselves.

The Cat in the movie tries to be funny instead of having fun. He’s performing for others’ approval. This fits the product tie-ins perfectly. It’s only cool if its fashionable. So much for independent thought.

Part of the appeal of the Cat is his disregard for “the rules” of others, especially those protecting the sterile material possessions of the house. Any child who can only peek into the banned “guest” drawing room with its “good” couch and “nice” furniture must feel a frisson of delight and fear at the Cat’s antics.

Still, he clears his mess up. All ends well and leaves a lot to interpretation: Be yourself as long as you don’t damage or hurt others; it’s OK as long as you don’t get caught; you can have fun anywhere with anything, except a goldfish.

Likewise, the message in the book the Grinch made clear, that you can’t buy holiday cheer, was totally subverted by the greedy Who’s in the film version and the accompanying extensive toy line I’ve come to expect little from Hollywood in the message department. Can’t wait till “The Lorax” hits celluloid. I’m betting bright pink “thneeds” will appear in toy stores.

Fortunately, Dr Seuss’s books will always be around and better than the films. Reading aloud to an enthralled knee-bouncing child with nonsense words and delightful stream of sounds is enough to entertain even the most rule-repressed adult. No adult jokes needed here.

Sure, reading is more work and time than plugging in a DVD, but I still remember my grandfather and his stories. It would be a shame if I could only remember the TV and some dumb broken toy.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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