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Thankful for Thanksgiving

graphic by Madison '16
graphic by Madison ’16

With Thanksgiving in two days and the holidays right around the corner, the rush to prepare for December and the consumerism being encouraged by outside influences can cause us to lose the true meaning of Thanksgiving, being grateful and giving back. To me, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends, appreciate what you have, and give to the people who haven’t been as lucky in life. In my family, it’s a tradition to help out at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving day and talking about what we are grateful for at dinner.

When I was younger, I always was tempted by the enticing Black Friday commercials. I didn’t want to miss out on the great discounts and tried to encourage my parents to let me shop on Black Friday. Every year I asked, and every year they refused to budge. I had trouble understanding why they were so uptight and strict on the matter; to me it seemed like a great opportunity to save money and stock up for the holidays. Why wasn’t I allowed to buy the newest American Girl Doll? Her hair was perfect, we could have matching outfits, and I could take her everywhere with me!

As I got older and became more aware of issues like world hunger and homelessness, I saw that my desire for the newest American Girl Doll wasn’t important compared to world issues. I realized that the consumerism encouraged by Black Friday shopping takes away from the whole idea of being happy and appreciative for what we already have. It’s so hard to hold onto the old Thanksgiving tradition of thankfulness in the face of advertisements telling you that you need more. Although this contradicts my ideas from before, I think that both sides of the argument are legitimate.

In our society, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure on people always to have the newest and most advances iPhone, keep up with the latest fashion trends, and have the best toys. What first started as shopping to help the economy has now turned into not only consuming merchandise, but also consuming people’s lives. Manifestation of and marketing are everywhere and it’s hard not to think about getting new belongings when billboards and commercials are so tempting. While chasing and focusing on the things we don’t have, gratitude can get lost and the line between wants and needs can be forgotten.

Maybe this desire for more can be traced back to the start of Thanksgiving because after the Pilgrims had dinner with the Native Americans, they took their land. This year, we have moved to reduce our consumerism that has grown to be a custom over the years and focus on being thankful what we have.