When I came to US, I was unaware of this tradition (well because it is not an Indian thing anyway, but now if you ask me I will tell you it is just another harvest festival and we have tons of those in India)
When I noticed a thanksgiving break in the list of holidays on my university calendar, I was curious and wanted to learn more about this blessed seven day break right before finals week and so I read and learned about how it symbolizes the celebration by the first few pilgrims who migrated to North America and is about being thankful for a good harvest (that would sustain them during the harsh winter). I liked the being grateful aspect of the celebration, though it is only symbolic now since people these days are not entirely dependent on the local produce anyway.
Besides these days, like I learned from experience and television ads, the thanksgiving Thursday is not just about giving thanks or eating dinners but the weekend is synonymous with Christmas shopping and deals and more deals. For the first few years I would spend the last Thursday through Sunday of November sitting in front of my laptop comparing deals, reading reviews, spending a sleepless night or two, heading to the stores at midnight on Thursday, standing in line to enter the store, running around the isles, picking up things that are inexpensive and unnecessary, then standing in line at the billing counter, coming home, sorting things out, returning some, keeping some and so on. It was actually fun, especially since it was a group activity :) Now, neither do I have a group that is interested in going shopping at midnight nor do I have the patience to shop like that anymore.
I still like the concept of black Friday and cyber Monday though. Businesses profit from it of course and consumers also get to feel like they are saving their hard earned money. No complains at all, a win-win situation. What bothers most people though is that black Friday is slowly creeping into and eating up most of thanksgiving Thursday. So family dinners are interrupted by sudden “oh I have to rush to the store now” or “Skip the dessert, get into the car” kind of things. My guess is it bothers the older generation who know the essence of the celebration and wish to pass on the tradition to their young ones. But is anyone listening?
And in situations like this I can totally imagine the elderly get together and discuss over elaborate meals, something on the lines of this conversation between Frodo and old Gandalf.
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf,’and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’ – Lord of the Ring
(A fitting quote for almost everything that we do not like or criticize about the world and the way things are going.)
Probably they then spend their time drinking more wine, discussing politics or in food coma while the young ones fret about what deal they missed and which store should they go to next. Who should decide which is a better way to be thankful and celebrate? Well isn’t that a personal choice ? :)
Oh as for me, I am thankful that I am able to witness and cherish all the different (both good and bad experiences) which sum up my life. I would not mind spending the night in food coma being thankful for a harvest that lets me eat that much or spend the night rushing through stores being thankful for the job that lets me spend as much. Oh and if I may I am thankful that the celebrations turned into a holiday (you will find that there are very few holidays in the US working calendar, especially when you come from a country like India :)).