Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forget Consumerism… Save Thanksgiving!

Well, yes, that is the title of my blog, strange as it may sound. However, I must give credit where credit is due…the title above is not mine, it is the name of a Facebook profile devoted to foregoing the mish-mash of holiday consumerism – especially Thanksgiving’s “Black Friday”  – and going back to the roots of Thanksgiving: the celebration of the harvest (e.g., food) and the giving of thanks for what one has! Sounds reasonable, yes! But do you concur? Have we lost the spirit of Thanksgiving and sacrificed its original intent upon the cross of consumerism?

Along Comes History

As I am sure you know – and as the story goes – the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts when the men and women aboard the Mayflower – those famous England Separatists known as the Pilgrims – broke bread with the Native Americans. According to tradition, the purpose of this first“Thanksgiving” was to celebrate a bountiful harvest, to celebrate kinship with the Native Americans living in Massachusetts at the time, and to give thanks to the Lord (aka “higher power”) for family, friends, safety, and the harvest. What came out of this “celebration of celebrations” was a focus on cooking (and I mean a lot of cooking!) and the sharing of a bountiful meal with family and friends. We are told that this Thanksgiving celebration lasted not one day, not two days, but three days! (Holy cow…and I am stuffed after only one meal and tired after only half a day!).
Some historians (including some Native Americans) debate the veracity of this “first Thanksgiving” story. However, whether or not you believe the story itself seems moot.  What seems most important, at least to me, is the implication of the story: making new friends, sharing with others, celebrating with others, giving thanks to our higher power; generally being mindful of who we are, what we have, where we came from, and where we are going. Well call me crazy but that sounds an awful lot like…like…are you ready for it? – Spirituality! So, it would seem that the “first” Thanksgiving embodied something quite spiritual. (Ha, you knew I was going to bring in SOMETHING about mind-body-spirit in this blog! J). But let me stop there before I continue (and believe me… I do have a lot more to say about this “Thanksgiving versus Consumerism” issue over the next several days).

I would like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the story of “Thanksgiving” shared above? Do you believe it was a spiritual moment for the Pilgrims and the Native Americans? Do you believe that this “spiritual” moment is the purpose of Thanksgiving? Do you get the sense that we may have lost the original meaning of this first Thanksgiving?

Stay tuned to the next part of this blog, which will focus on Thanksgiving consumerism – often referred to as “Black Friday,” and what this shift to consumerism might mean for the development of our Mind-Body and Spirit!



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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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