As far as Thanksgiving songs are concerned, “Over the River and Through the Woods” may soon be replaced by rock group Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
According to a Wall Street Journal article titled “The Whenever Thanksgiving,” a survey by polling firm CivicScience shows that 16 percent of respondents plan to celebrate Thanksgiving earlier than the traditional Thanksgiving Day this year, and another 13 percent are willing to experiment in the future. (And 24 percent of those surveyed thanked God that they keep an air horn by the telephone for occasions when pesky pollsters call during mealtime. At least pollsters THINK that’s what they said.)
Yes, in order to work with the busy schedules of family members and lessen holiday stress, a growing number of Americans no longer consider themselves tied down by the fourth Thursday of November.
Oh, there are still traditionalists, like my elderly neighbor, who thinks Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments in one hand and a recipe for mincemeat pie in the other. She won’t even let the menfolk watch football on TV after the Thanksgiving Day meal (insisting that they honor indigenous peoples by receiving the play-by-play via smoke signals).
Nonetheless, a significant segment of us ARE observing Thanksgiving earlier. The Journal said one family actually celebrated its “Fauxgiving” on October 28 — three days before Halloween! The gathering was marred only by the inconvenience of taking the turkey to the hospital for x-rays after fake news of Butterballs stuffed with razor blades circulated.
What if the holiday creeps earlier and earlier every year? Do we need to hear Alice Cooper singing, “School’s out for summer/School’s out for sweet potatoes with marshmallows”? Will the story of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims resonate so well if a giant rabbit is hiding candy cranberries on the lawn? Would you be willing to consume a turkey that had been shot by Ol’ Dan Cupid?
Of course, some families find it easier to celebrate on the Saturday AFTER Thanksgiving; but the holiday could go deep into December. Then all those people who have birthdays on or near Christmas would get ripped off even worse. (“I got you a wishbone with a red bow for your birthday, Cuz. Hope you’re still getting me those ‘Hamilton’ tickets for my MID-YEAR birthday.”)
I realize that spreading out the observances helps ease the tension of negotiating with co-workers who ALWAYS beat you to the vacation calendar. (“I know you really want that triple bypass surgery, Hank; but I’ve had MY heart set on seeing the world’s biggest ball of string since last Wednesday.”)
And, yes, non-traditionalists are scoring some bargains in groceries, lodging and airfare right now; but the various industries will surely adjust to the New Normal. (“Well, if you wanted your luggage on the same plane instead of on the Mayflower, you should’ve paid for first class.”)
If Thanksgiving becomes unmoored from a concrete date, it might become just a glorified tailgate party. It needs to retain some of its special late-autumn sacredness and other features.
For instance, Thanksgiving has traditionally been a time for introducing your college sweetheart to the family. Rush the holiday up TOO much and you’re likely to hear, “Mom, Dad, I’d like you to meet Mr. Anderson. See that gleam in his eye? That’s the girl I’m going to marry someday!”