Thanksgiving dinner took me more than 14 hours to prepare. I cooked more than ten dishes, which I placed in elegant cream-colored china and set atop a gold table runner. In the center of the table, I lit a golden candelabra with candles that perfectly matched the china.
Thanksgiving dinner itself lasted no more than half an hour at my house. I did more than fourteen hours of active preparation, months of agonizing over the menu, days of obsessing over the presentation and it was all for thirty minutes of family enjoyment.
After dinner, my family stayed in playing board games and visiting. But while many families like mine spent time together, according to the National Retail Federation, more than 35 million Americans were shopping on Thanksgiving evening. Others spent the day watching football or creating wish lists for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.
I have to wonder at what point the holiday season became more about pretty tablescapes, good food, shopping and football than it is about family time.
According to folklore, Thanksgiving began as a celebration of thanks between the pilgrims and the Native Americans. Children’s books and popular culture describes the first Thanksgiving as a time when people came together, spending time being content in the simplicity of togetherness. Our culture idealizes this allegory, and I would argue this idealization is actually good.
There’s something highly attractive about the holidays marking a time of simplicity and quiet.
But that’s not what actually happens. Rather than bringing the restful time of year, the holidays bring a series of rush. There’s a rush Thanksgiving morning to get the turkey in the oven. There’s another rush at 9 p.m. when Target finally opens their doors. Again, a rush the morning of Black Friday. Then, a rush to get the house decorated for Christmas so it looks as good as the neighbors’.
It seems to me that even those of us who don’t shop on Thanksgiving or don’t watch football or wait until December to put up our Christmas trees still can’t overcome the haste of our culture during the holidays. And Christmas is no better than Thanksgiving.
Christmas always seems to move past the archetypal spirit of giving and into the contemporary reality of the spirit of getting.
It’s about having the most presents under the tree. It’s about getting the most bang for your buck during Cyber Monday. It’s about putting up the most lights on the block.
Where is the quiet? Where is the sloth and rest that we so desperately need just once per year? Where is the family connection, the satisfaction in simplicity?
We have got to learn how to reconnect with what the holidays are truly about—rest and relationships.
Trego is a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication and English. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.