Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 25 October |
Saint of the Day: Sts Gavin, Protus, and Januarius
Aleteia logo
home iconNews
line break icon

Protecting Thanksgiving From the Cannibals

Steve-Mohundro-CC

David Mills - published on 12/03/14 - updated on 06/07/17


It means something good when minutes go by without a car passing on the street by your house, when stores and restaurants close, when churches have a special midday service. It means something good when the day is different from all other days. It means something good when television has Thanksgiving specials and movies use Thanksgiving as a setting because the experience is so widely shared. The day is, as Rundle says, part of our national identity and that is a good thing.

This is the common experience so many large companies so insouciantly try to destroy. What will they do when, everyone starting the day with 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day sales, the holiday ceases to be Thanksgiving and becomes the national shopping day, and government and business decide they’re not giving people a holiday just to shop? The executives who talk about these things will note that Thanksgiving Day sales figures are dropping since the day is no longer a special day, eliminate the day’s special deals, and find another way to increase sales, like Napoleon’s army on the march to Russia stripping the land of its food and then moving on careless of the wreckage they’ve left behind.

Ah, some will say, but people want to buy things on Thanksgiving! To which the simple answer is: Just because people want to buy things does not mean you have to sell them. You have other responsibilities, among them deference to important public rituals and symbols. The things they want to buy will be on the shelves the next day, and the day after that, and the weeks and months after that.

Thanksgiving comes but once a year. Holidays like Thanksgiving are shared experiences that began in a different age and grew organically, and once they die — once someone kills them — they’re dead. They can’t be reinvented.

The Catholic Church in America has for many decades now had to negotiate the experience of living in a pluralistic society. One of her most difficult decisions has been the extent to which the Church can affirm public rituals and symbols. To what extent is participation in this or that activity part of being an American in a way a Catholic can freely join or a compromising act of civil religion? It is a difficult question and the Church has sometimes chosen wisely, sometimes not, though the wisdom of the choice is often only clear later.

Here, I think, is a chance for the Church to make a decision for her members and to the benefit of the country. Thanksgiving, the old-fashioned holiday, compromised though it is, means something and something we should not lose. It is in danger, eventually a mortal danger.

Next year, say at the beginning of November, the American bishops should stress the importance of Thanksgiving as a national holiday and describe the forces by which it is being cannibalized. They can speak as prophetically and counter-culturally on economics as they now do on marriage. They should then urge Catholics not to shop on Thanksgiving and those Catholics in business not to sell on that day. It probably won’t do much good, but it would make a public statement in defense of our shared culture and thus offer a witness to public ends higher than profit the Church is about the last public institution able to offer.

David Mills,former executive editor of First Things, is a writer and author of Discovering Mary. His webblog can be found at www.patheos.com/blogs/davidmills.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
Thanksgiving
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Marinella Bandini
Exclusive: Carlo Acutis as seen by his mother
2
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio replied to John Paul II’s letter with a miracle
3
VENERABLE SANDRA SABATTINI
Philip Kosloski
Meet Sandra Sabattini, a newly beatified 22-year-old
4
Theresa Civantos Barber
St. John Paul II’s perfect advice for lasting love in marriage
5
POPE JOHN PAUL II
Cerith Gardiner
A collection of Pope John Paul II’s quotes on some of life’s most...
6
WEB2-Bishop_Michael.jpg
John Burger
Once considered for top post in Anglican Church, former bishop be...
7
peace
Philip Kosloski
How kindness begins in your heart
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.