My colleague at Heartland S.T. Karnick has written an excellent account of why we ought not be concerned with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day. Instead we should celebrate the freedom we have in this country that allows businesses to conduct business. In a sense I agree. I certainly would not legislate stores to be closed. However, as a republican [please note the small “r”] I am publicly dispirited by the fact that so many stores are opening on what should be our most solemn of holidays other than July 4th.
It’s time to bring Thanksgiving back to its hallowed position it used to occupy.
Stores and businesses want to get a jump early on the Christmas season in pursuit of profits. Over the years, this intense quest for profits has led to Christmas marketing to impinge on our sensibilities ever sooner, so that now, we see Christmas commercials, Christmas ads, and the stores decorated in Christmas attire as early as mid-October. I love Christmas, and it is one of my favorite holidays, but the increasing emphasis on Christmas as a materialist holiday has soured me on the holiday somewhat I have to admit. So important has Christmas become, that nary can one find Thanksgiving greeting cards in the stores anymore.
Thanksgiving is the one true holiday—other than July 4th—that does not require gifts or the expectation of gifts. Thanksgiving has always been about love, family, God, and public spiritedness thanking whatever deity we worship for the many blessings for living in a free country. We gather on Thanksgiving to recognize the blessings we have before us in our families and in the first country in history founded on the natural rights all human beings share. There is something more meaningful in gathering with loved ones to simply enjoy each other’s company without the material expectations that follow with Christmas. To be frank, Thanksgiving is a far more religious and spiritual holiday than Christmas could ever be. Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, has directed our national attention in a more direct public manner than Christmas ever has. In terms of this republic, it precedes Christmas and is our oldest national holiday—even older than Independence Day.
The first proclamation of Thanksgiving was in 1777 (though there were others noted before the Revolutionary War by His Majesty’s Government). As it pertains to the Union, the first was authored by the Continental Congress. We usually forget that fact and read the more weighty proclamations by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress asserted that,
Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.
It encouraged—did not require—a day of rest from work to be with family and thank God for the year that is near an end. Of course, thanksgiving proclamations always directed our attention upward. The early proclamations petitioned God to bless our military efforts and to relieve the afflicted in the unpleasantries that inevitably accompany war. The central message was to petition God for wisdom, for peace, and for our “national happiness” [1782 proclamation].
In my lifetime, my fondest holiday memories surround Thanksgiving, which kicked off the holiday season. Nowhere in the early to mid 70s was there a Christmas decoration, or ad, or store display until after we had first given thanks for the blessings of this republic. my family would celebrate the day with blood relatives, and those who were surrogate members of the family, though they were every bit full members of our little enclave. The day was spent in togetherness, and the enjoyment of each other’s company, not in the opening of gifts and then the inevitable paring off separate from the family to enjoy the gifts received. The only thing that we did of any outside entertainment value was to watch the Detroit Lions lose yet another Thanksgiving football game—something I actually enjoyed. Yet, we never forgot the blessings of freedom too. And we reflected on the Founders, Lincoln, and the what our ancestors did to preserve the rights of mankind. That is perhaps difficult for this materialist society to fathom, but yet, America in the 1970s was such—at least in my world and with my family.
Now, we are bombarded daily from mid October on to buy, buy, buy and rip ourselves from the family hearth to pursue some sale. What is lost in the process? What deep and meaningful opportunity is lost with family when we nary have dinner digested and we are running out to fight the crowds to possess some material things that in the end will decay anyway? What has the country lost when republicans care more for material gain than giving thanks for the reason we have the freedom to achieve material comfort in the first place?
I lament our national holiday, and I do pray for its return
So this “consumer” will be shopping at Menards, who took out a full page ad in today’s Chicago Tribune stating their stores would remain closed on Thursday so families can give thanks and spend the day as it was intended.