I like Thanksgiving, partly because it resists being hijacked by commercialism. I like the sounds of family and friends laughing around the table. I like the fall leaves scattered about the lawn, the crisp mornings and the smell of turkey baking in the oven. I like what goes with it: cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad and pie (any kind of pie).
And, most of all, I like dressing, the one thing that still divides the north from the south. Those from the north prepare bread dressing. Those with southern roots cook cornbread dressing. Turkeys come and turkeys go, but my wife’s cornbread dressing is to die for. She learned the recipe from her mother: cornbread, celery, onions, chopped boiled eggs, broth, butter and other ingredients I will never figure out. With giblet gravy, it is a meal in itself.
By Friday the tryptophan and carbohydrates have worn off. After missing the third quarter of the Thanksgiving ballgame, we regained consciousness enough to stumble into the kitchen for leftovers. Loaded up again, and we slept the sound sleep of a thankful soul. And now we are ready to get on with the real business of the American holiday season: shopping.
Of course Black Friday isn’t what it was. Online shopping, Amazon and some stores opening their doors late on Thursday have taken some of the zap out of it. At it’s peak, lines would form in front of Walmart, Best Buy and Target long before the first gray light of day. A few spent the night camped out in tents on concrete sidewalks. Our pilgrim fathers knew nothing of this. They hunted and harvested and cleaned and cooked, but they never stood in lines in front of glass doors waiting for the opening bell. They never rushed through aisles searching for treasures that were sure to disappear. They never stood in checkout lines that stretched to the back of the store. They had it easy.
Fifty years ago we eased into Christmas. No one had heard of Black Friday. We used Friday to digest the Thanksgiving feast. It was a quiet day, the day after we gathered at grandma’s with cousins and kin. Christmas decorations were not yet up. We savored the season. But today, we are jolted from Thanksgiving into Christmas.
Black Friday seems to symbolize our rush through life, our efforts to get the best deal, to be first in line. It seems to represent the commercialization of Christmas and threatens to turn Thanksgiving into a season of “thanks getting.” Don’t get me wrong. I like a good deal and deep discounts. I want the American economy to thrive. But, along the way, I hope we cultivate a thankful heart and grateful spirit that is not measured by the sum of what we can get at the cheapest price. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15).