Heading into the Holidays

When schoolchildren are asked what Thanksgiving means, they usually mention food or being thankful. They don’t tend to say “shopping.”

But Black Friday has been in the news for weeks, and the annual shopping frenzy is only going to get worse. It shifts focus toward getting a head start on Christmas gifts, rather than carving out family time.

For years, retailers have pushed back the start of Christmas – Santa Clauses and holiday wrapping paper were in the stores while we shopped for Halloween candy.

Getting first in line to buy a reduced price big-screen TV? Grabbing up discounted socks? Are those the defining icons of holiday spirit? And should they be crowding out Thanksgiving?

We can all use a sale, but we can also use a chance to relax with family or friends. That’s basic to Thanksgiving, and helps us realize what we have to be thankful for. And this year, plenty of stores have decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving, getting back to the long-time idea of the holiday as a time to spend at home with loved ones.

No question, this country is far from the Norman Rockwell images of big families crowded around the Thanksgiving dinner table, but most of us still mark the occasion by sharing a meal with family or friends and pausing for a few hours from the constant jabbering of the online world. And for those who have the next day off work, it’s extra time to spend with the children, or just to take a breather, rather than prime time for pushing through crowds.

We all want businesses to thrive, but encouraging mindless spending is far from the best way to boost the economy. And promoting that spending at a time when we could be otherwise occupied makes it worse. We hope this year’s list of Thanksgiving Day store closures is a big step in the right direction.

So how to mark the holidays? This time of year is perfect for taking stock in what we have in our lives.

First are the simple things we often take for granted – a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator, clothes in the closet. And good health.

Then there’s the freedom to live and travel where we want, to worship or not as we choose, to express our political views publicly – as well as in the privacy of the voting booth.

We may not have the money we think we need or the job we want or the house we desire, but we have a say in how our communities are governed.

As we head into the holidays, let’s keep in mind what’s really important.

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