Thanksgiving is a holiday stuffed full of family memories. When I was a little girl, I helped my mother with the turkey and dressing. I chopped vegetables, washed dishes and did other chores in the kitchen while she put the ingredients together with gourmet skill. We did all this while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went on in the background.
Time passed. When my children were still young, one Thanksgiving Day, we took the train to New York City from Philadelphia and watched the parade in a cold spit rain. We stood at a corner and could look up and see the giant balloons over our heads when they turned the corner. My husband held our daughter on his shoulders. She wanted to stay even after we decided to go inside for hot coffee.
Times passed. There were Thanksgiving Days when church members came together to serve dinner to residents of a local homeless shelter. It was a day when the young and the old spent part of their day working on behalf of strangers whose presence blessed us.
There were Thanksgiving holidays with family and friends. There was one that I spent alone with my dog, and we ate our dinner at midnight. It was a good Thanksgiving Day. While there is a great deal of work that goes into shopping, cooking and cleaning in preparation for the day, it is still a day when we pause to share a meal with the people and the creatures that we love.
Thanksgiving Day is a civil holiday, but it is a day of religious significance when we consider the ethics of commensality, the holiness of the table meal, the physical and spiritual importance of sharing a meal with family, friends or even with strangers. We share food, time, and lively conversation. We make memories. Such occasions are a part of the joy of life. When we consider the meaning of the communion elements as not only the body and the blood of Jesus, but as elements that signify the sustenance and the joy of life, then such occasions as Thanksgiving Day are joyful days that make life worth living.
Some people who work for Target, a major national retailer that plans to open its doors for Black Friday starting at midnight following Thanksgiving, have circulated a petition in protest. They are right to say enough. I stand in solidarity with them.
There are many people who work on Thanksgiving Day — law enforcement officials, people who work in hospitals, and others. Some people volunteer with Alcoholics Anonymous during the day because such days can be very stressful for alcoholics and for their families. So, it is not that those of us who stand in solidarity with the Target workers do not realize that not everyone gets Thanksgiving Day off.
However, the idea that this society is willing to allow our materialism to go unchecked to the point that we want to force people to lose a significant portion of a day dedicated to giving thanks because some business does not want to lose a “competitive edge,” is shameful. It is a sad commentary on our values. People have been trampled to death in a rush to get into this or that store for the sake of the bargains. This is tragic. It is time to say enough. Let Thanksgiving Day remain sacred, set apart. We can stop the madness if we do not shop before sunrise on Friday morning. Stand in solidarity with the Target workers.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com . She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.