Is There Any Room Left for Gratitude in Thanksgiving?

Demeter

Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture

The history of Thanksgiving dates back to antiquity, when the Greeks were honoring Demeter, the goddess of agriculture who was giving mortals plentiful harvests. If we are to transpose the sentiment to today’s world swallowed by consumerism, we’d bring offerings and homage to Gates, the God of computing for making administrative work and wasting time oh, so convenient; or Sheldon Adelson, for the opulent ambiance in his little Venice, and the tears of joy and sorrow shed in his casinos; or Jim Walton, where would we buy stuff if not for his thousands of stores nationwide? We do not thank any of them because, on one hand, we do take all these for granted, it’s true, but, on the other hand, none of these things are essential to our survival or even to our happiness. Upset Demeter and you’ll get a year’s worth of crops perishing in fire, or floods, leaving you worrying for the survival of your children and family; upset Walton to the point where he closes his stores, well… you’re left with the difficult task of choosing an alternative: Target, Sears, Kmart, you name it.

There are many variations to Thanksgiving across the globe, taking place at different times, for religious or cultural reasons. Regardless of reasons, timing, and other circumstantial elements, the intent of this celebration is to give thanks. Altered from its first edition thousands of years back when the people would thank the gods for plentiful crops at the beginning of fall, the modern Thanksgiving has evolved into a cultural tradition focused on sharing love and gratitude with family. Given the rushed and busy lives we now lead, you don’t expect us to actually stop and say thanks to our loved ones without assigning a day for it in our calendar, do you?

In itself, Thanksgiving presents the opportunity for reverence and gratitude, it reminds us that at least one day out of the 365 a year we should quiet ourselves, slow down to look around and within us, and acknowledge the blessings we’ve been given. Hard goal to accomplish when the money-ridden world we’ve built for ourselves, interfering with our introspection, loudly invites us to go shopping before we’ve even carved the turkey at the family dinner. Walton, keep your pants on, would you? Lemme get to dessert at least!

They do not celebrate Thanksgiving in the ol’ country. At least not since the fall of communism, twenty-something years ago. Back in those days the whole nation would observe The Harvest Day, celebrated on the first Sunday in October, when we’d supposedly thank God for the abundant harvest (supposedly, because let’s face it, the stage was set for a national bow to the Tovarash (Comrade)). Like with all communist settings, things were not all rosy – most of the ‘abundant harvests’ (vegetables, meat, milk) displayed at the fairs organized across the country were merely for display, and those partaking in the setting-up of the events (farmers, engineer) were terrified that the President would be displeased with the smallest slips.1

Nothing to worry now. The day has been long removed from the national holidays, although you still see some local celebrations in certain provinces. I doubt the holiday would be reinstated or updated with a roasted turkey twist – it lacks the glitter and commerciality to be something worthwhile importing. You know what would catch on though? Black Friday. Yep, Black Friday is now officially a thing back there. They’re skipping giving thanks for what they have, diving right into buying more. Sad.

I am not going to tell you to stay put and ignore the incentives. If you really need that TV and are willing to skip dinner or trade-in your sleep, and physically fight for that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ deal, suit yourself. First, please remember what this holiday is all about; be present and mindful at the dining table, express gratitude to those who chose to spend their time with you, look within and thank yourself for being good to yourself. Then, when you make it to the cash register, show gratitude to the person ringing you up – he’s a high-school student who is now learning that a reverent holiday loses to the greed of a billionaire industrialist; she’s a mother who either skipped or rushed through Thanksgiving dinner with her children to make it to work on what is in fact an official national holiday; they’re the daughter or son of elderly parents in need of assistance who now spend Thanksgiving alone. For you, being there is a choice. For them, it is not.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and having the patience to read my unnecessarily-long posts. I am grateful to Gates (and whoever invented the computer – too tired to research it) for making typing possible. Can you imagine writing all this stuff in longhand?…

Gobble-gobble! Go and pardon a turkey! Fine, you can roast and eat it. Let Obama do the pardoning.

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  1. First picture retrieved from http://www.comunismulinromania.ro/Arhiva-foto/Economie/Economie-XI.html, on November 27, 2013; second picture retrieved from http://www.comunismulinromania.ro/Arhiva-foto/Vizite-de-lucru/Vizite-de-lucru-XVI-Nicolae-Ceausescu-Intreprinderea-de-constructii-aeronautice-Brasov-Autobuzul-Bucuresti-Sibiu-fabrica-fabrica-uzina-romania.html, on November 27, 2013 []

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