Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tis the Season?

November Seventh.  Two-thirty in the afternoon.  A new record, for me at least.
That was the moment I heard the first Christmas Carol of the “season” played on the radio.  Somehow, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” didn’t have the same impact amidst a South Carolina 82 degree day as it used to have back in New York.  But it’s not the weather so much as the moment...I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.  And you can blame it on that greedy, king of all capitalist pigs, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Well, sort of.
In 1939, with the nation still lingering in the later stages of the Great Depression, Thanksgiving became an issue of great political, social, and economic contention.  See, it so happened that there were five Thursdays in that particular November, and ever since Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, the national day for giving thanks had been the final Thursday of the month. 
But back then, Thanksgiving was an actual barrier to all things Christmas.  It was tacky, even disrespectful, for stores to get all decked out with trimmings of the “most wonderful time of the year”...“the hap-happiest season of all”, and whatnot.  But seven days less of selling Christmas wares did not sit well with retailers or with a president overseeing a still-sluggish economy, so F.D.R. declared that Thanksgiving 1939 would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month rather than the last.
Only half the states followed the decree, with the other half sticking to the last Thursday.  Texas, never one to be messed with or outdone, celebrated both days.  Then, in 1940 and '41, when the President declared that Thanksgiving would be on the third Thursday (out of four), the states split in roughly the same manner.  It was only in 1942 when things got mostly straightened out, with Congress establishing the fourth Thursday of November as the day of National Thanksgiving. 
Still, the floodgates of commercial enterprise had been let loose.  The damage was done.  So next year, when TBS broadcasts a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” marathon on October 29th, or you walk into your friendly local Walmart looking for Halloween candy and hear Johnny Mathis singing about “Jack Frost nippin’ at your nose”, or when you’re watching the World Series and a Starbucks commercial comes on announcing that their KandyKane-cinna-mocha-frappa-latte-cino is now on sale, well, I want you to stop right where you are...perhaps drop whatever you’re holding and clench your fists, shaking them above your shoulders and looking out into the vast beyond, and I want you to shout in your greatest Howard Beale voice of righteous indignation, “F.D.R., you greedy capitalist son of a bitch!”   (Google Mr. Beale, kids.)
But there is another tack, you know...one that originates from somewhere deeper than the mere exoskeleton of our environments.  For thankfulness emanates from within.  As does every other sentiment associated with this season...love, generosity, compassion, joy...no matter how they may be marketed and twisted and associated with all manner of things material.  Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation came near the end of the bloodiest year of our nation’s history to date.  But it asked us to see the blessings amidst the ravages of the storm. 

And truth be told, it wasn't really Mr. Roosevelt's fault.  During World War II, Korea, and Vietnam the holiday "season" got moved up in earnest when folks on the homefront had to do their shopping early to send their gifts to the men and women serving overseas.  So, not such a diabolical plot after all.  I guess I can handle a little Johnny Mathis in November.     

Happy Thanksgiving!

2 comments:

  1. It's impressive how calculated their attempts are to get us to spend money so that they can make money. One can argue that its for the good of the economy, but let's be real. At the end of the day, there are still individual people with individual motives staring at a big paycheck. They have the capabilities of manipulating an entire season and other things that are so much bigger than themselves. Frustratingly impressive.
    Great posts, Troy.

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  2. Very true, but you wouldn't believe the deal I just got on a new Wii remote for the peanuts!
    Howard Beale brings back memories of the clip from Network they used to play at the Mets games! Ahh, those were the days! When the Muts were good!

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