OPINION | Gwen Rockwood: Thanksgiving deserves its moment of gratitude

Dear Thanksgiving,

No matter how many twinkle lights go up around town or how many holiday songs I hear in stores, I haven't forgotten you. November is yours. I have a turkey decoration on the center of my kitchen table, and that bird will stay in its prominent place until the sun sets on Nov. 23. I promise.

For years now, you've been getting the short end of the wishbone, thanks to a phenomenon called "Christmas Creep." But don't be alarmed. Christmas Creep is not some weirdo in a Santa Suit. It's a strategy used by retailers to move the holiday shopping period earlier in the year. They want a longer runway leading up to Black Friday, when holiday sales officially take off.

Speaking of Black Friday, there are a few stores that turn Black Friday into Thankless Thursday. They've moved in on what may be the only 24 hours you have all year.

They say opening stores on Thanksgiving Day is a response to eager shoppers who'd rather gobble up sales than spend a leisurely evening with family, snacking on leftover slivers of pumpkin pie. But I'm not sure I believe it. It feels like one more way that Thanksgiving is getting stuffed into Santa's armpit.

Part of the problem is that, as holidays go, the only trimmings you've got for Thanksgiving are the cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Let's face it, T. You have no presents to open. No exploding fireworks, no colored eggs, no Halloween candy, no red roses. You don't have the razzle dazzle other holidays have, but maybe there's a good reason for that.

Often, it's the quiet moments in life that teach me the most. It's hard to hear that still, small voice when there's a Christmas parade in progress or exploding fireworks.

When I see red and green splashed around town so early, I feel like Thanksgiving gets its feelings hurt. I'm just stubborn enough about it that I won't deck the halls or trim a tree before Thanksgiving has had its full 24 hours. I don't want to rush past it.

Thanksgiving gives us some much-needed time to be with the people who matter most. A day devoted to gathering around a beautiful meal to recognize how lucky we are to have food that sustains us, a home that shelters us, and people who love us. There are millions of people around the world who will not have that this year and may not even have hope of it for years to come.

In this loud, hectic world, we need Thanksgiving -- now more than ever. It's not just an excuse to eat too much, and it's not an opening act for the headliner holiday. It gives us time to honor all the things we so easily take for granted. Time to help those who need it most. And time to say -- and feel -- a heartfelt "thank you."

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist.

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