Carstens: The new meaning of Thanksgiving


Pamela Albin Moore


Courtney Carstens

Thanksgiving Day is a little less than a week away, and, while it is supposed to be a day of giving thanks and gratefulness, I see now more than ever it’s becoming a day of rest before the shopping frenzy on Black Friday. We have quite clearly, and unfortunately, misplaced the meaning of Thanksgiving. 

Former President Abraham Lincoln expressed his happiness and thankfulness for a Union victory at Gettysburg on Oct. 3, 1863, but he also made a statement that Thanksgiving would begin Nov. 26, 1863. Since then, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a national holiday every fourth Thursday of November. 

We should care more about the meaning of Thanksgiving for what it has traditionally symbolized and not what we can buy the next day. Our traditions need to revert back to the thankfulness we once possessed and not the selfishness that has consumed our society.

The first Thanksgiving Day feast took place in colonial times at Plymouth Rock to celebrate a successful harvest giving thanks for what settlers grew. In 1623, the Pilgrims had their second Thanksgiving celebration to celebrate and be grateful for the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest. What did both of those two beginning celebrations of Thanksgiving have in common? They both centered around the idea of celebrating what people were thankful for. This is simply not the case anymore.

Not only has the holiday been skewed, but it has also turned violent. According to a website which tracks how many people have died on the day after Thanksgiving due to Black Friday-related activities, since 2006, there have been seven deaths and 98 injuries from Black Friday shopping. No one should get injured, let alone killed, for going shopping.

We aren’t in the Hunger Games’ Panem where we send our children to fight to the death because we are forced into suppression by our government as our country tries to fend for itself. This is quite the opposite. This Thanksgiving especially, we have so much to be thankful for in this country. We have been reminded in the last week just how real international threats are, so I would hope that fact alone would trump a discount. 

However, as much as I don’t want to admit it, Thanksgiving isn’t really a family tradition anymore. According to a list of statistics compiled by CNN based on Thanksgiving 2013, the trend is to put more emphasis on preparing for the day or on going shopping rather than spending time with family. The most alarming statistic was that 92.1 million people opted to hit the stores rather than spend time with family. 

This appalled me because my family, no matter how small of a group we are, tries to make the Thanksgiving meal a priority. Now that I’m in college and don’t see my family as often as I wish I could, holidays such as Thanksgiving mean even more to me. And it’s not only because of the homemade food.

The meaning of Thanksgiving has been lost in this country almost to the point of mockery. A Pinterest pin reads, ‘”Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” This statement sadly sums up the new persona we have pushed upon this holiday.

We should be taking this day to be thankful for what we own and not what we could go out and buy. This Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful for those who surround us, the memories we’re making with them and the things we already have.