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You gotta feel sorry for Thanksgiving.
Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, it’s not a very glitzy holiday. At least not in comparison to its counterparts the month before and the month after November.
There’s not much decorating involved, save for the occasional seasonal floral arrangement of fall leaves and mums. No Thanksgiving tree laden with ornaments commemorating the holiday. No lighted blowup turkeys or life-size pilgrim figures for the front lawn.
Thanksgiving doesn’t involve dressing up or going door to door asking for pumpkin pie. We don’t shop for Thanksgiving gifts, excited about surprising family members with packages wrapped in orange and brown. There are very few songs about Thanksgiving, except for “We Gather Together” and “Come Ye Thankful People, Come,” which I remember singing in elementary school.
So it’s no surprise that Thanksgiving often gets short shrift. Big box stores put out Christmas decorations alongside Halloween ones, animated zombies juxtaposed with moving pint-size elves in green. Yowls emanating from stiffly gyrating ghouls compete with “Jingle Bells” playing in sync with flashing lights in Christmas bells.
On Nov. 1, Halloween greeting cards are supplanted with Christmas ones on display racks. Christmas music blares from store speakers. Florists have open houses. Santa arrives at the mall.
And homeowners take their cue from retailers. As soon as Halloween decorations come down, orange lights packed neatly away for next year, Christmas lights go up. On balmy November weekends, families place giant candy canes along their walkways and sprays of pine and holly in their windows.
By mid-November, trees are already lit and decorated in many Elizabethtown living rooms, placed strategically in front of street-facing picture windows. Earlier nightfall with the end of Daylight Savings Time brings with it brightly lit Christmas scapes in subdivision yards.
But in our haste to plow forward from Halloween to Christmas, we mustn’t overlook the merits of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Instead of glorifying dressing up, the undead or Rudolf, Thanksgiving celebrates gratitude. We gather with our families to thank God for another year of blessings. We’re grateful for each other and for our role in each others’ lives. We talk and laugh and tell stories.
Christmas is often a blur of preparation. There are parties to go to as well as practices for plays and musical performances. I feverishly shop and wrap, working hard to find just the right gift for each recipient. I often wrap gifts late into the night Christmas Eve.
But if pressed, I can’t remember what I received or gave as gifts five years ago.
I do, however, have very clear memories of spending Thanksgivings with my siblings and their spouses and children when they were small. Of my husband and my sister making apple pie together Thanksgiving morning, she making pie crust from scratch while he peeled and sliced apples. Of setting the table (or tables if we couldn’t all fit at just one) with dishes and napkins and candles that were specially picked and matched.
Of holding hands around the table as we each told of one thing we were thankful for that year. Of my sister’s puggle, Ducci, waiting to snatch up my great niece’s plate as soon as she sat down on the floor with it. Of playing board games at the table when the dishes were cleared off. Of my nephew making coffee shop lattes and cappuccinos to order.
Of the cousins filming videos with elaborate story lines to be viewed and applauded by their parents Thanksgiving night.
Of going out for a leisurely breakfast the day after Thanksgiving with my brother and sisters and their spouses while Mom watched the children. And feeling just so blessed that we could get together from across the eastern United States to spend a weekend together to talk and reminisce.
We’ll be going to Salem, Va., this year to my sister Mia’s house for Thanksgiving. Mom will fly there earlier in the week, as she likes to do, to help with preparations for the big meal. We’ll drive over Wednesday, and our boys and daughter-in-law will arrive by mid-day Thanksgiving Day.
We’ll pray together and thank God for His goodness and laugh and hug.
Then we’ll careen toward Christmas, beginning with a Black Friday visit to the J. Crew Outlet near Mia and Pat’s home.
Suzanne Darland teaches journalism classes and is director of the faculty advising center at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.