By Steve Wintermute
THE GOOD OLD DAYS that so many people fondly remember mostly exist in their own highly selective memories. I do not normally dwell in the days of yore. However, I do remember the “Good Old Days,” when commercial Christmas and religious Christmas—Advent—began at about the same time.
Now, though, the former begins around Labor Day—if not before—effectively severing any connection it once had with the latter. With each passing year, the Christmas selling season seems to begin earlier, and threatens to engulf both of the holidays in its path.
Halloween appears to be holding its own, so far. I suspect that is primarily because the powerful candy industry has a vested interest, and so it begins advertising right after Labor Day. However, Thanksgiving Day, despite its long national history, is not faring as well. Indeed, squeezed as it is between the commercial juggernauts of Halloween and Black Friday/Cyber Monday, it is dangerously close to becoming part of our collective “Good Old Days.”
We shall be the poorer for it should this occur, because we will lose the one day of the year when it is socially acceptable to publicly say that there is more to life than making money and accumulating stuff without being called a communist or—even worse in these times—a liberal. We will also lose the one day when we are encouraged to be thankful for what we have, not for what we do not have.
So here is my bit to help keep Thanksgiving Day alive and well. First, by offering a reminder that money can neither buy happiness nor most of what makes life worth living. Second, by sharing a short list of what I will be thankful for tomorrow.
Enough to eat. Safe drinking water. Shelter that keeps me cool from the heat, warm from the cold, and safe from the elements. Good health insurance. Access to good healthcare. Folks who believe that all of God’s children (which includes everyone regardless of age, color, creed, and national origin) deserve these basic human needs and are working hard to make it so.
Family, both immediate and extended, whose lives continue to be the definition of unconditional love. Family reunions. Hearing children in church. Sermons that make me think. Teachers. Folks who sacrifice for our common good. People who understand that we learn more when we keep our mouths shut and our minds open. People willing to question their beliefs.
Knowing what to do. Knowing what not to do. Uproarious laughter. Completing a crossword puzzle in ink. National Public Radio’s “Storyboard” series. Good Ole Murvul’s Homecoming and KT Week. High doorways and long beds. Public libraries. Tickled fancies. Intriguing possibilities. “Eureka” moments. Finding no monsters under my bed. Public radio and television. Healthy foods that actually taste good. Bookstores. Murder mysteries. Hot-air balloons. Computer spelling- and grammar-check programs—usually. A column idea that works.
Christmas Eve Candlelight and Communion services. Rainbows. Living where every season has its appointed time. This has become especially important to me after having lived for a time in Arizona, where summer is 360 days long, and the other three seasons share the remaining five. Living in a country where we are able to freely discuss religion and its role, in the public square.
Our first Congress, which understood that informed voting and informed dissent are impossible without an informed citizenry, and therefore, made a free press a basic right protected by our constitution.
Janice, who fills my life every day with joy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve Wintermute is a journalist and history student. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org