I was raised in many ways to be British. When it comes to holidays, though, American holidays can be some of my favorite. Christmas I find nauseating and struggle every year with feelings of sadness and disgust, but Halloween is great fun, and Thanksgiving is increasingly a favorite.
In many ways, it is too easy to point at the ways American culture is growing increasingly vapid, filling empty, despondent lives with increasingly meaningless soporifics like reality television, cable news, and Angry Birds.
Thanksgiving, though, shows us that people are not as shallow as we deep thinkers over on this side of the wall blame them (us) for. The holiday I remember from my youth as being purely about food is becoming increasingly about what it is supposed to be about: nurturing an attitude of gratitude. People are starting to not only talk thankfulness and appreciation around the Thanksgiving table laden with good food, but in the broader context of life. As Christmas has spread as a buyers’ holiday, crowding in on Thanksgiving and even Halloween, Thanksgiving is starting to spread out into earlier in the month too.
How many people do you know who adopt the practice of expressing gratefulness for something every day in the month of November? Surprisingly, many people I count as friends are engaging with this practice, offsetting the disdain I feel as people dive more and more headlong into materialist culture by diving instead into reflection, contemplation, generosity.
I wonder how much of this trend is due to our ongoing economic straits. People who cannot afford to splurge on toys for themselves over a Black Friday that now starts early Thursday morning might be induced to think more about what they have than about what they want. But I would like to think something else is going on, a dissatisfaction with materialist culture. A growing mistrust of the government, of corporations, of authority in general, might lead us to mistrust the things they want us to buy (Mercedes Benz’ for Christmas, DVD boxed sets, drugs to enhance our moods when the usual soporifics have lost their power to stupefy) and instead turn to the things we know really matter: family, friends, love, laughter.
Of course a nice bit of turkey helps things along.
— Jason Dias
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