Simonson Says: Let Thanksgiving be

We’ve all heard the complaint that Thanksgiving is the invisible major holiday. Marketing for Christmas begins the day after Halloween, or even earlier in some stores, and some radio stations are already playing full-time Christmas music.

Personally, it’s getting a little old seeing people post on Facebook, “I heard ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ on the radio today and saw a Christmas tree in the store! WHAT ABOUT THANKSGIVING?” (Admittedly, though, that meme of a cartoon turkey yelling “DECEMBER, FAT BOY!” at Santa Clause has not gotten old.) How many times do I have to say that this is a shame, but pretty understandable?

First of all, Thanksgiving is just not marketable. The possibilities for decoration are pretty limited. Stores can only make so much money off of turkey Beanie Babies, and they’ve already been selling most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods all year long anyway. And the only Thanksgiving songs I know of are “Over the River and Through the Woods,” Adam Sandler’s “Turkey Lurkey Loo,” and now, from the people who brought you “Friday” by Rebecca Black, 14-year-old Nicole Westbrook’s “It’s Thanksgiving.” Unless Justin Bieber and Katy Perry want to collaborate on a cover of “Over the River,” I don’t see Thanksgiving inspiring many No. 1 hits.

Second, we all know that Thanksgiving is actually part of the Christmas season, like another Christmas Eve that comes a month early. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two parts of essentially the same holiday (not in terms of origin, but they do both celebrate family and gratitude). When you think of Thanksgiving as more of an honored precursor to Christmas than a stand-alone holiday, it doesn’t seem so pitiable.

What I do have a problem with, however, is trying to not just ignore, but completely erase Thanksgiving for people by using the day itself as an opportunity to squeeze in an early buck for Black Friday. The novelty used to be getting up at 5 a.m. to start your Black Friday shopping. Then it was at midnight, because even consumerist conglomerates like Walmart recognized that we should at least let Thanksgiving be officially over first.

Then they had an epiphany. “Hey, why can’t we use the actual day of Thanksgiving to cash in on the Black Friday craze? Give the people what they want!” So Black Friday, which is fast on its way to becoming a bigger holiday than Thanksgiving itself ever was, will now be starting as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving at stores like Walmart and Target. Within the next couple of years, I’m sure it will be even earlier in even more stores.

So what, though, right? If people want to spend their Thanksgiving night shopping, they’re not hurting anybody. That’d be fine, except that this means Walmart and Target will be taking thousands of employees, most of whom do want to spend Thanksgiving at home, away from their families. My cousin won’t be joining us for Thanksgiving because he works at Target, whose Black Friday deals will start at 9 p.m., and it needs all hands on deck. As I understand it, most of its clock-punchers didn’t even get the option of having the full day off.

What is happening to the holiday season? Even while we listen to the radio crooning that Christmas is not about the gifts or material possessions, we are on our way to the store to try to get a better deal on things we don’t need or even really want. I like shopping and getting good deals as much as the next person, but Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have, not about always wanting more to keep up with the Joneses.

To the already staggeringly rich corporations, I say: Keep your consumerist greed out of my Thanksgiving.