My wife hates Christmas. Well, okay, that’s not quite true. My wife hates that Christmas trumps Thanksgiving. Every year, immediately following the Halloween promotions, stores and businesses gear up for Christmas. Trees and garland replace pumpkins and spider webs. Fall sales are quickly changed to Christmas or (more likely) holiday sales. Christmas music fills the radio airwaves for almost two full months as the Christmas push gets longer and longer. And except for being the day before Black Friday, it seems that Thanksgiving gets more and more marginalized with every passing year. This is what irritates my wife, and for very good reason.
Thanksgiving, as it is currently celebrated, began with an amendment recommendation by Elias Boudinot on September 24, 1789; this was almost a year to the day after the Continental Congress passed a resolution to replace the Articles of Confederation with the new Constitution. Boudinot’s recommendation actually preceded the Bill of Rights by two years and was the first proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Gary DeMar writes:
Congressman Boudinot proposed that Congress jointly request that President Washington proclaim a day of thanksgiving for “the many signal favors of Almighty God.” He “could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the blessings he had poured down upon them.”
It is true that days and times of thanksgiving had preceded Boudinot’s official request. The modern Thanksgiving celebration often hearkens back to the grand meal shared between English colonists—the Pilgrims in Plymouth—and their new friends in the New Word, the Indians. DeMar continues:
The colonists of another era were aware of the many instances of thanksgiving found in “holy writ.” Thanksgiving, as it was practiced by the colonists, was a religious celebration that shared the sentiments of their biblical forerunners, giving thanks to God for His faithful provision.
Boudinot’s amendment recommendation was not only a reminder of this event, but of countless events of God’s providential hand leading the new Americans in their establishment of a new nation.
We’ve come a long way from this national reminder of God’s grace and provision. In fact, Target stores have announced that they will be open on Thanksgiving Day this year, sparking much howl and protest from customers, employees, and stockholders, but—at least as of this writing—to no avail. Target claims that they are merely “responding to consumer demand” (meaning, the company’s bottom line) and that the decision was “carefully evaluated with our guests, team and the business in mind.” Perhaps, but customers can’t enter a store if it’s closed. What really motivated Target’s decision to open at 9 PM on Thanksgiving was that Wal-Mart didn’t open last year until 10 PM. Thinking they could get a one-hour jump on their competitor, Target changed its hours. Now Wal-Mart has announced that they will open at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day—the retail war is on in full.
All the while, Americans get further and further from their historical roots, forgetting that Thanksgiving has a much longer and richer history than Black Friday. My wife could not be more correct in her indignation over the anti-Thanksgiving attitude. I am now officially joining her.