Searching for the true meaning of Thanksgiving

I’ve been thinking a lot about temptation lately. It was one of the first weaknesses depicted in the Bible. There in the Garden of Eden, Eve partakes of the fruit. And the fate of humankind is decided.

We all have our “fruit” — something pulling us to an activity in which we shouldn’t participate or a food in which we shouldn’t indulge. We all lose the battle every once in a while. On the weekend of Thanksgiving, for many, the fruit seems to be the best deal on a flat-screen TV or one of the few coveted toys a store has in stock. Retailers tempt us with low prices and doorbusters. Commercials tempt us with pictures of shiny gadgets and flattering outfits.

Charlie Brown would be aghast if he were to witness what we call Black Friday. In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” he is dismayed by the over-commercialization of the holiday and is left wondering what Christmas is all about. Thanks to Linus, he — along with viewers — is reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

What about searching for the true meaning of Thanksgiving? Seems ridiculous, right? But maybe it isn’t anymore. As an increasing number of retailers announce they are opening on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps we should pause to consider what the holiday is all about.

Surveys show shoppers are ready to hit the floor running as soon as stores open their doors, even if it means rushing through a Thanksgiving meal. The source of the food and the tradition behind the feast are afterthoughts.

In a recent Associated Press story, a young woman explains why she won’t be hosting a Thanksgiving meal for her relatives again. “They barely finished,” said Kimberly Mudge Via of Boone, N.C. “They thanked me and left their plates on the counter.”

In that same AP report, retailers were asked the reasoning behind their decision to open ahead of Black Friday. Their answer: to give shoppers what they want. The AP spoke with officials from chains like Best Buy and J.C. Penney, both of which said customer feedback drove their decisions.

Hidden under that explanation, though, is the full truth: Consumers will yield to temptation and the stores will profit. On a day when we should be concentrating on gratitude, making lists — mental or otherwise — of those things of which we are thankful, our focus is shifted to getting the best deal, no matter what it takes. Standing in line at 2 in the morning? You betcha. Trampling over pregnant women? It’s happened.

What if this time we replace “want” with “thanks”? That fruit might be making our mouths water, but no one is forcing us to take a bite. I urge you to ask yourself what’s best. Is that deal really worth losing a few moments with a loved one, or even a few moments of rest?

My hope is that we resist the temptation to go into stores on Thursday and instead search for the true meaning of Thanksgiving. You may find it playing a game with your kids; catching up on what’s been going on in the lives of the people you love; making a phone call; knocking on a neighbor’s door; visiting your grandmother in the nursing home; or by counting your blessings, literally.

Share with another person the reasons you are thankful on this day. It may be the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin pie wafting through the rooms of your home; the turkey in the oven; watching the parade with your kids in your pajamas or football with the boys after lunch; family visits; your health or a day off work.

It is just one day, after all. The Christmas season will be in full swing soon; the stores will still be there with their deals. At least for now, let’s think about Thanksgiving, what it means to us, and where we would be without it.

Charlie Brown would approve.

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