Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reclaiming Thanksgiving

In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the second-to-last Thursday of November, rather than on the traditional date, which was the last Thursday of November. Disrupting such a long-standing tradition was highly controversial, so why did FDR do it? He wanted to add a week to the Christmas shopping season!

In this historical anecdote, we find a sad truth, which is that as far back as 1939, adding a week to the Christmas shopping season was already considered by many Americans, including the President, to be a good reason to move our traditional time of gratitude. But at least in 1939, Thanksgiving was an important enough part of our culture that Americans would not turn their attention to their Christmas shopping until Thanksgiving had passed. Until then, Thanksgiving, and not Christmas, was the focus.

Today, the secular Christmas season starts on November 1, if not earlier. Christmas is a wonderful holiday and I do not mean in any way to disparage Christmas shopping that is done in the right spirit. But I lament our loss of Thanksgiving. By turning our attention so early to jingle bells and Santa Claus, we lose sight of the magnificent day of gratitude to the Almighty that we as Americans can claim as our heritage.

Those of us who have attended Ave Maria have a particular stake in Thanksgiving. First, Ave Maria has given us so much for which to be thankful. Second, we have received an education focused on Him to Whom gratitude is to be given on Thanksgiving day. Let us never forget our gratitude! Let us never forget Thanksgiving!