The Most Wonderful Holiday

As a kid, I sensed that Thanksgiving was a different sort of holiday. It wasn’t about piles of presents, or going away to someplace exotic and expensive. It wasn’t about a cake and candles and more presents. It wasn’t about a basket overflowing with sweets I probably should not have been eating in those quantities, or dressing up in a costume to score more sweets.

Thanksgiving involved a very good meal, true, but more to the point, it involved gratitude and loved ones. That’s it–period. That’s the reason for the holiday, to be grateful for what we have. That we follow this holiday with the Black Friday ritual of unbridled consumption strikes me as calculated to distract us from Thanksgiving priorities.

I get that some people need every deal they can find on staples, much less on discretionary purchases, but does that explain the hordes thronging to the stores to buy Mario Kart and Spiderman Games? Xboxes and Nintendo Switch bundles? We spend, on average, $5 billion on that one day, very little of it for necessities.

The average American is bombarded with 1600 advertising messages in the course of a single day. That’s 1600 times we’re told, “Buy this, and you will be happier/prettier/healthier/smarter…” Or my favorite: “Buy this and you’ll be wealthier…” Which is shouted at authors from many sides.

I see two problems with the message that buying some thing fixes a problem. First, I’m happy right now, I’m pretty enough right now, I’m in possession of enough goodies to assist me with maintaining and improving my health (waves to the tread desk and the comfy walking shoes). The implication that I should be discontent with my circumstances is a) manipulative, and b) usually a lie. Most people would consider themselves to be living the dream to have what I have–a roof over my head, some money in the bank, a job I love, good friends and dear family, as well as reasonable health. Besides peace and justice for all on a well cared for planet, what more SHOULD I want?

But when you’re told 1600 times a day that your life can and should be better? How long can you even hear the evidence of your own contentment, much less trust it? Now consider that you’re a seven-year-old kid, trying to sort out what matters in life, and turn those 1600 missiles of manipulation into nuclear warheads. And maybe you think,  “I just ignore all the ads,” but the ads are designed to ensure that even when we don’t realize we’ve seen them, they impact our behavior and our moods.

The second problem I see with the swamp of consumerism is that while we’re busy getting and spending and laying waste our powers, we’re not creating relationships, building communities, or devising public policies that protect our privacy and peace of mind. We’re not doing the things that have been proven to result in true contentment and health, in other words. You can probably think of a better use for $5 billion than hand-held games that will be mostly gathering dust (or made obsolete) in a few months.

So here we are, facing the time of year when we’re most heavily besieged to buy, buy, buy… What one addition to or subtraction from your life would you really like to find under the tree next month? I’d like to find more time with my friends, and you know what? I know exactly where to get it. This week, I’m not doing a giveaway. I’m doing a donation to Heifer International for beehives and trees in the name of my blog buddies.



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27 comments on “The Most Wonderful Holiday

  1. I’m someone who has NEVER shopped on Black Friday. The idea of all those crowds was enough to put me off, I didn’t care how good the bargains were. During my work life, I was always the one who worked that day so that my co-workers could have the day off. Usually very quiet – got a lot of work done. My reward was that I would get Christmas Eve off.

    Good on you for the donation to Heifer International. I get mailers from them all the time, but I’m committed to other charities, and was never able to send them anything. Feels good – thank you.

    • I liked working holidays myself. I was never within travel distance of family,and figured it was something I could to contribute to seasonal good cheer.
      As for Heifer…Charity Navigator gives them good grades, though I tend to do the non-animal or vegetarian options if I can. They are also active in the US, which is important to me.

    • They are imaginative in the way they help, and the their “passing on the gift” philosophy means the ripples keep expanding outward. I like that.

  2. I must confess that I have shopped on Black Friday. The last time was in 2014 when my daughters needed decent suitcases for her semester abroad. I haven’t shopped since &don’t miss it.

    We have a small family run restaurant/ general store in our neighborhood that advertised a couple of weekend dinner specials Instead of shopping, my daughter and I had a nice meal & chat. We supported a small local business too.

    We hosted Thanksgiving this year. It was a lot of fun to see friends and catch up. I decided not to attend my dog club show & Meeting because I wanted to enjoy the long weekend with my friends and family. It was. Great decision- I feel well rested and ready to go back to work.

    What would I like under the tree?
    Can you wrap up Peace & Quiet & Good Health?? If not, sneakers for me and a 6 foot leather obedience for Gregory the corgi.

    Am enjoying My One and Only Duke !
    Have a great week !

    • You raise another excellent point: Why not spend that Friday (if you have it off) hanging out with friends and family? But then, I regard shopping as a chore on a good day. Some people view it differently. My mom was an excellent shopper. She knew where the bargains were, who had which inventory suited for what purpose. She could buy clothes for me that I loved, without me having to try them on. That’s a gift, and one of many things I miss about her.

  3. I also would like to find more time with my friends and family under the tree this year. I’m busy and this time of the year, professionally, is my busiest. I wish I had more time to talk–not email or text–really talk with those I care about. That gift would be the best!

    Here in the Midwest, with snow already bearing down on us even today, we kinda get into a bunker mentality. We stay in because it’s a hassle to go out but with the advent of electronic devices, it’s worse. We used to talk on the phone when it snowed but no longer. It would be comforting to hear a voice and fun to compare snow stories in conversation. Instead, we Facebook IM or text and it’s not the same.

    • You remind of memories I have from childhood, of my mom being on the phone–not for a quick exchange of information, but for a “phone visit.” My brothers would hang on the phone with their girlfriends, taking the phone half-way down the steps for privacy, because the cord only reached that far.
      I still, occasionally, will have “catch up” calls with my siblings, but pretty much everybody else has been pushed out of my phone circle. Now why is that?

  4. I’m enjoying what my neighbors are starting as a neighborhood tradition – block party with the price of admission canned goods for the local food bank. Gets us out of the house, away from the roaring televisions, and meeting the faces behind the cars and doors. Granted we live in a warmer climate allowing outdoor interaction and in a pocket enclave off a county road that keeps our numbers down and the distance walkable. But it’s a start. And it’s nice to have a holiday we all share, given the variety of nationalities, faiths, and traditions in our little corner of the world.

    • That is such a wonderful idea. I hope it becomes quarterly or even monthly. The beautiful weather really does make socializing easier. My parents lived in San Diego, and they never had to worry about the weather being “cooperative,” which made scheduling easier. And when they did have a gang over to the house, anybody who needed a little breathing room could also go outside to the desk, the patio, wherever, and take five. That’s an advantage for creating fun, relaxed, successful gatherings.

  5. My life’s subtraction is to stop buying and/or reading “women’s magazines.” Actually, I stopped several years ago when I realized I was no longer energized by them and had begun to be dissatisfied with my home and my life.

    Every adorable project that I could not complete, every recipe that I had no time for, every get-thin/rich/prettier/sexier/smarter/better/faster/happier page left me depressed and yearning for more.

    So I stopped.

    Maybe as a substitute, I became mildly addicted to Pinterest, but I don’t choose to pin anything wildly beyond my reach. Mostly, I pin kitty photos and easy chocolate desserts and Sandra Boynton funnies. They make me happy and I don’t have to fuss around with recycling them.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Grace, and thanks for the wonderful donation that honors so many.

    • Those magazines crack me up. They can contain a surprising amount of good science, and they are always so colorful, but their stock in trade is two kinds of articles: Tired women and overweight women… which is a big reflection on us as a society.
      And what else do they always, always have? More goodie recipes than Carter has liver pills. Like those cupcakes will help with fatigue and weight gain?

  6. I don’t watch television (though I will netflix something specific I want to watch) and rarely listen to the radio (I prefer an audio book in the car) and that has so dramatically cut down the advertising I am subjected to that I am always outraged at the messages, both overt and covert, when I do run across them. When they are no longer normal they are easy to deconstruct. My kids have much the same lifestyle (though they definitely netflix more than me) and they are remarkably easy to please. They don’t need the newest whatever and aren’t interested in social media. What I would like would be being able to swing family dinners with magically easy schedules. We are even relatively a very minimally scheduled family, but somehow everything happens around dinner time.

    • You make such a good point: we come to see that bombardment as normal, and then we don’t even see it, we just endure it. This is probably why most mental health weenies are advising us to regularly unplug–turn it ALL off–and then we’ll get our vision and hearing back.
      But maybe also a big dose of annoyance.

  7. Here in the U.k we do not have a holiday for thanksgiving.We celebrate by having harvest festivals in our churches and some schools but it is not on the scale of your celebrations and thanks.It would be a lot better than manic black Friday that drives reasonable people to act in a crazy frenzy way.Give me a sincere thanks and a special meal and a day set aside for this than a consumer race of materialistic greed.The world has gone mad.I am no longer a participant in this race.I am calm and appreciate all that my country and fellow people have provided and all that mother nature has provided.We are so fortunate.

    • I don’t recall Black Friday being a thing until about ten years ago, which of course, coincides with on-line shopping. Then Amazon pushed it out into “Cyber Week,” and December is pretty much “Cyber Month…”
      So much noise. I wish we’d do like the French, and nearly everybody takes off a big chunk of time over the summer–not just a week at some insanely crowded beach–so we all hit re-set, and connect with friends, family, and ourselves.
      Because what is all the work and worry for, if not to create a life full of meaningful relationships?

  8. I would like my son to find his next passion under the tree, if not before. Hopefully it will pay a living wage and be something he can do for more than six months without crashing. Oh, and if I found a couple billion dollars under the tree, I could have fun with that, too. I’d let y’all help, too.

    On our way home from four days with family. Weary with indigestion… but it was good.

    • Somebody once told me that people with a lot of gifts have to do a lot of exploring to figure out which gift of combination of gifts is the best direction to invest in career-wise. Some young people also get so hung up on, “I have to do this for the rest of my life! What if I’m not excellent at it!” when in fact, most of us has three or four careers in the course of a adulthood.
      I will wish for you both an endeavor that is joyous, meaningful, sustainable, and income-producing. That is NOT too much ask.

  9. Bravo. I never go shopping on Black Friday. I was tempted by a site offering Easy Spirit shoes (I like the mules and mine are years old) but naturally they were sold out of my size. I enjoy shopping for books and that’s about it.

    • Yeah… they are “out of your size,” or the fine print says, “Quantities limited,” or “Valid for the first two customers…”
      Manipulation and lies… And we just grumble and put up with it.

      I like shopping for books the old-fashioned way, by wandering up and down the shelves, reading back cover copy, and being surprised.

  10. I love to score Vintage China plates and other pretties at thrift shops. They come out for special occasions. And sometimes I use them just because. My MIL, who appreciates a good deal asked to see my collection. She no doubt was humoring me, but I more than happily showed her my dollar plates that are gold leafed or scalloped edged, made in Germany or in Japan and are not dishwasher or microwave safe. She then said, “Those are really pretty. Why don’t you get a China cabinet to display them?”

    Why don’t I get two? Why don’t I get a sofa for my front room? Why don’t I get a sideboard? Why don’t I get custom built-ins? Why don’t I get a sectional for my living room? Maybe a set of matching winged-back chairs? Why don’t…

    I just be happy with my kitchen cabinet that is more than adequately housing my pretty plates.

    • Some people claim we get a dopamine hit from spending money. I think that’s highly individual. Some people love to cook, for others it’s drudgery. I am so un-motivated to shop, that I just want it over with, and I am not as fussy as I ought to be.
      Maybe MIL was just trying to appreciate your collection, for what you’d spend on a cabinet, you could probably add something more meaningful to your collection.

  11. Grace, I sincerely hope you do not mind me hijacking your blog for a moment, but today is designated Giving Tuesday. I thought, perhaps, some of your readers might be familiar with Julie Anne Long, who is also a Regency romance writer. Julie lived in Paradise, California and her home and most of her belongings were completely destroyed. She did manage to take a few things, including her 14 year old kitty.

    There is a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her. If you’d like to personally help a person on this Giving Tuesday, and not necessarily just an organization, please consider helping Julie. I do not know her, except through some of her lovely books.

    Thank you and best wishes,

    • Don’t mind at all. No less person than Julia Quinn was sharing this link with her readers, so you know you’re in good company. Julie and her cat are hanging out with a friend in the Bay Area for now, but I keep hinting that she should move to Maryland… She thinks I’m kidding.

  12. What an amazing and inspiring statement!! More of the population needs to be and do as you stated in this blog!!
    Thank you for donating to Heifer International this planet needs many more trees and beehives!! They are both things we need to survive.

    • Venette,
      I chose those because I think they’re pretty non-controversial. How can you take issue with bees and trees? Heifer also has “pass on the gift requirement,” in that, if your trees are doing well or bearing fruit, you have to help somebody else get an orchard started. Then THEY have to help somebody else, and so forth.
      Paying it forward is another idea I think most of us can support, so Heifer got my donation this week.