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Thanksgiving started as a day of thanksgiving and praise not shop round the clock

By Dian Vujovich

I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving. It’s that one day of the calendar year when everyone in America, what ever their age, gender, skin color, faith, political affiliation or socio-economic status is encouraged to come together and actually spend time thinking about and giving thanks for the life they are living. The payoff for this rumination, of course, a huge meal destined to lull you to sleep somewhere between the college football games and Charlie Brown doing this or that. Oh, and a day off from work.


Unfortunately, that day off from work is becoming a thing of the past.


From where I sit, there is no good reason for retailers to be open on Thanksgiving Day.  Not one. Particularly since this strictly U.S. holiday has its roots not in selling stuff but sharing the stuff we have.


Yes, I’ve read all about how it’s the customers and not the corporations who’ve insisted that this Thanksgiving Day become  another full-fledged shopping day and I’ve pooh-poohed it all.  It’s corporate America who is crying out for more cha-ching and not the guy and gal who has always welcomed this day off from work–sometimes with pay.


Bottom line it and open-for-business on Thanksgiving says more about making shareholders happy than it does shoppers saving money. And, says nothing about the original intention of the day.


It was George Washington who got the notion of a national Thanksgiving Day started in 1789 when he designated November 26 as  ” a day of public thanksgiving and prayer “for the new nation and its Constitution, according to About.com history.


It was President Lincoln who issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation making the last Thursday in November the official Thanksgiving holiday and President Roosevelt who changed that.


In FDR’s 1939 Thanksgiving Proclamation, he announced Thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the second-to-the last Thursday in November.


Why? According to that same source: “Retailers complained to FDR that this only left 24 shopping days to Christmas and begged him to push Thanksgiving just one week earlier. It was determined that most people do their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and retailers hoped that with an extra week of shopping, people would buy more.”


Turned out, FDR’s change was so confusing that not all states went along with it. So, two years later, in 1941,  Congress passed a law stating that the fourth Thursday in November would be the day Thanksgiving was to be celebrated.


Hats off to stores like Costco, Nordstrom’s Sur La Table, Marshall’s, TJ Max, BJ Wholesale Club and others that have decided to celebrate Thanksgiving by closing their doors and giving employees time off. I wish more retailers would decide to follow their lead.


Each and every one of us knows that we can live a day without shopping. But what we might need some brushing up on is spending time giving thanks.

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