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Thanksgiving Reboot

I love Thanksgiving. For me, it beats Christmas for best holiday because I generally get to see more of my family at Thanksgiving than I do at Christmas. But there is another reason why Thanksgiving has become more important over time.

When I was a child, Christmas was a day for gifts and giving, but culturally it still revolved around the baby in the manger. Christmas carols were predominately religious in tone. On the other hand, Thanksgiving was a national holiday commemorating the Pilgrims and Native Americans having a meal together.

In today’s culture Thanksgiving has become the more spiritual celebration of the two. Thanksgiving is about families and friends gathering together, sharing a meal, counting their blessings, and being grateful. Christmas is about “joy,” the Elf on the Shelf, matching pajamas, and exchanging gifts. The baby in the manger is in the past.

One way to see first hand how dramatically these holidays have changed over the years is to go onto Amazon, the Goliath of e-commerce, and see what is selling. I decided to check out holiday napkins because they are small items, accessible to many, and offer such a variety that the buyer can easily find something that suites their personal attitude toward the season.

When you go online, Amazon presents you with the top 100 items based on sales. On the pages for both Thanksgiving and Christmas napkins, there are many items with images and no text. There are no Thanksgiving napkins in the top 100 sales items with images or references to Pilgrims, Native Americans, or the first Thanksgiving. Given where we are as a culture in the process of understanding our history and diversity, this comes as no particular surprise. Thanksgiving images are mostly of turkeys, pumpkins and fall leaves. There are 17 napkins that have the words, “Give Thanks,” and 27 napkins that have some combination of the words, “Thankful, Grateful, and Blessed.”

In all, there are 44 options out of 100 that reflect some form of gratitude and blessing. There are also 6 options that say, “Happy Friends Giving,” which has become a new and welcomed tradition for people who do not have the option of being with family to gather together, share a meal, and be grateful.

The images on the Christmas napkins generally consist of wreaths, trees, and Santas. There are only 4 napkins in the top 100 sellers with a religious image or text, and 2 options that use the words, “Love, Peace, Joy.” I expected to see at least one, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” but there were none. And although there are a few humorous napkins for Thanksgiving, mostly about “Gobble, Gobble, Gobble,” or “Wear your Fat Pants,” Christmas takes the prize in the boozy, comedy category.

“He Sees You When You're Drinking,” “I’ll be Gnome for Christmas,” and “Let’s Get Lit” are a few examples. There are also 3 options for napkins that come in a double pack: half saying, “Naughty,” and half saying, “Nice.”

It is fascinating to watch the movement of our culture. As our country strives to acknowledge and equalize our myriad cultures and faith expressions, we become less and less Christian. But, while Easter fades in our cultural consciousness, we seem to be maintaining a firm hold on the feast of Christmas, albeit in a more secular vein. Simultaneously, we are rethinking a national holiday, making it less about marking a moment in our conflicted history, and more about counting our blessings and being grateful. Sounds spiritual to me.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you be Thankful, Grateful and Blessed…whatever that means for you this year. I’ll close by sharing with you the prayer that I plan to pray at our Thanksgiving table this year.

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