Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday– 3 ways to make it less commercial.

I love Thanksgiving.

Part fo that could be that I was born early in the morning on thanksgiving day, and every 5 to 11 years (depending on how leap years fall) I have a Thanksgiving birthday again.

Lately I have been seeing Thanksgiving get the short end of the holiday sticks. The ever growing and expanding need for wall street profits has been pushing the window around Christmas out further and further. Last year was the worst year I can remember as far as retailers extending Christmas kick off. It seems that we got back from trick-or-treating that the christmas decorations and “early black friday” sales were in full swing.

My wife says I have a gift for very memorable sarcastic visuals. So in a moment of frustration, I remarked that Thanksgiving “was my favorite holiday since it was the most American, think about it you over eat to the point of needing to remove your belt, you sit on the couch and watch TV for hours, parades, football games, and then the next day you get out your credit cards and shop shop shop.. what more American than that?.. oh and it is all to celebrate taking natural resources from people that have more covers all the bases”

“well when you put it that way”

People normally react with a sort of uncomfortable laugh on hearing that. It seems mean and wrong, but also kind of convicting. You want to debunk it, my reaction is to try to debunk it point by point. But, if you are an outsider, a non-north american, that might sound pretty accurate. 

But if you are going to say, that is not what Thanksgiving is all about, you need to be able to say what it *is*. I said earlier Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and that is true. I love Thanksgiving. But I dont like what it is becoming. (I also dont like what Halloween and Christmas are becoming but those are different posts)

What is Thanksgiving then?

My son does a type of homework they call a freyer, and part of those exercises are listing examples and non-examples. Here is my Thanksgiving freyer


Non Examples

  • Thanksgiving is not a speed bump between Halloween and Christmas,
  • not about overeating, 
  • not about watching TV, 
  • not about working ourselves into a shopaholic feeding frenzy. 
  • not even about the Dallas Cowboys


  • Take stock of your blessings,
  • give thanks for them, take a few minutes and really do that.
  • realize your abundance and give from that to others.
  • celebrating the need of us to rely on people different from us, even at the dawn of our country

Three New Family Traditions

So given that is what Thanksgiving should be about, how do we change the what we do to reflect those values? You can’t keep doing the same things in the same way and expect our children to grow up and believe something different than what the current system embodies. So in our family we are trying to establish new traditions in our family around those examples. Things that force us to really take stock of our blessings, and abundance and reinforce the duty we have to use those blessings for worthwhile goals. Here are three of the things we have been trying over the past few years.

1. Donations:

We are abundantly blessed. and we want to bless others. This year we have made several full carload donations, and made the selecting and boxing up a family project. Each of the kids went through shoes, and backpacks, clothes and toys. some picked out things they dont play with, some picked out things that they have out grown, some picked out stuff that “they are too old to like” anymore. I just tried to get the number of tshirts I have down to a number that fits comfortably into my drawers. So while this is basically painless for us, it will be a great joy and a blessing for the people who receive these items.

2. Service

We also did some service projects as a family. The kids at Union Gospel mission have a small library, and as much as our kids love to read, that is a real tangible thing they can do. They have lots of books they have read and out grown. But in addition to that we organized a book drive in the neighborhood, and went door to door around our block looking for donations. They have a full red wagon of donated books at the end of the day, and they went with their mom to donate them the next week. I dont know this took a whole lot more physical effort than the donations, but it certainly was further outside the comfort zone for giving.

3. Sharing

In addition to that, this year we are cooking a TON of food. And we are inviting some people who have touched our lives this year. One of them is Peter, (and his Sons George and Allen). Earlier this year my mother in law bought a house on our street, but it was a few months before she could retire and move down. So we had this perfectly good, totally empty three bedroom house sitting across the street. And So we agreed since we were already paying for it, we might as well let someone use it. So we called a bunch of people and asked, “hey do you need a house for like 3 months?” and all of them passed. A few months later one of our friends on facebook posted “what would you say if you learned that someone in your church had to sleep in their car in 110 degree heat because they were homeless and worked the night shift?”.. now keep in mind this was one of the people I had offered use of the house to. So before I left for work I posted back “I would say, we have an empty house they can use to sleep in”. By the time I got home everything was in place. They lived there for about a month before they secured an apartment. My kids still miss George and Allen and are cleaning right now to get the house ready for them.


Not everyone has spare house like that they can lend, and it was kind of a fluke that we did. But plenty of people in the church helped in other ways, providing a mattress, or a table, or silverware, backpacks, school supplies etc.

And everyone can certainly open their homes and share a meal with someone, you might even watch a football game with them and read through the ads.

Happy thanks/giving everyone