Making Thanksgiving About Giving Thanks

Spotlight Editor Ainsley Snyder reflects on the commercialization of Thanksgiving

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I always go out grocery shopping with my dad for the upcoming meal with my family. I look out of the car window and see people camped out on the sidewalks by big stores like Best Buy, Target, JC Penny and more, waiting for the lowest prices on electronics, clothes and toys of the year.

Other times, I hear of people who spend the entire Friday after Thanksgiving with their noses in their computers. They say they are finding the best deals while avoiding the dangerous crowds.

Thanksgiving, for me, is a celebration of everything my family and I are fortunate enough to have. I am grateful to have enough food in my kitchen, so I can eat whenever I’m hungry; both of my parents have cars, so I can get wherever I need to go; I go to a great school, so I can get a good education; and I have supportive friends and family — the list can go on.

But I also get so caught up in things I don’t have throughout the year. I get upset about not having a specific shirt or type of jacket or about getting a really bad grade on a test. This holiday gives me a break to refresh myself and take a weekend to think about what I have.

When I see people so focused on what they don’t have, even during a holiday of giving thanks for what they do have, it’s saddening.

Thanksgiving is a simple event. It’s unburdened by decorations and expectations of gifts decorations and gifts to really celebrate the true meaning of the holiday. It includes family members all convening at one location and sharing a day together, watching football and the Thanksgiving parade, cooking and eating dinner and sharing their favorite memories.

I understand that Black Friday is a necessary day for some people. The low prices allow people who don’t have abundant money to get their holiday gift shopping done so they can satisfy their family and friends.  

Unfortunately, there is a buying cycle, and once you start, it is hard to get off. First, you buy holiday gifts and spend lots of money. The next year you realize you don’t want to spend as much money but still make it a better holiday, so you buy even more at the Black Friday sales. The third year, you go back to Black Friday and spend even more to meet the expectations you have created. It continues to get worse and worse.

But there’s another way.

It is OK to get off that cycle. It is OK to start making the holidays less about material items and more about their meaning. Instead of trampling other shoppers on the way to the $50 flat-screen TVs, visit a neighbor who has no family coming for Thanksgiving. Instead of sleeping in tents on the sidewalk by stores on Thanksgiving night, take the time to make the traditional holiday turkey. Instead of spending hours browsing online stores for the best deals, cozy-up with your family and watch a holiday movie. It is OK to allow this holiday season be stress free.

So parents, sit down and have a conversation with your children about this holiday season and their expectations and maybe suggest some new ideas that don’t involve spending lots of money. Kids, tell your parents that you understand and it is truly unnecessary to spend lots of money on the holidays and come up with some activities you and your family could do together to bring the true spirit of the holidays back.

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account