This Thanksgiving has been different for me. For the first time I’m celebrating outside of the U.S.
Usually I’m at my family’s house grubbing on soul food. You know, the kind of rich food that gives you a small, but noticeable food baby. Then, we’ll go to look through the newspaper adds for the best deals and decide what stores, if any, to conquer the next day.
But this year I’m in Germany.
No one really celebrates Thanksgiving here.
No stuffing, no mac and cheese, no sweet potato pie or fried turkey.
BUT best believe Germans still celebrate Black Friday!
The holiday deals are still poppin.
A week ago I saw a sign in a shop window reminding people to stop by and take full advantage of the upcoming discounts. The sign caught me off guard, not because I had forgotten about Black Friday, but it seemed so odd to take part in Black Friday without Thanksgiving (as if they are mutually exclusive).
It dawned on me just how much I’ve grown to associate Thanksgiving with shopping.
Black Friday in some way feels lack luster without the food beforehand…..well, and food after (because let’s not forget the importance of left overs).
How can we celebrate turkey day without getting emails from every place we shop reminding us of their “AMAZING” one-time-only deals. It puts us in a state of continuous anticipation, reminding us to avoid missing out at all costs.
In America, we stuff our bellies and then follow-up by stuffing our shopping bags.
But……perhaps this is problematic.
The main event is no longer just food and family. Nope, that’s just the warm up.
The real action happens when we leave our homes, experience a high from using coupons and getting a deal that happens “only once a year.” It’s become stressful and exciting all at once.
It begs the question, when did practicing gratitude and thanksgiving translate into buying more?? We fill our bellies to the brim and yet, our incessant hunger for more is never quite quenched.
Thanksgiving in and of itself has somehow taken a back seat.
When did people start camping outside at Walmart? When did it become normal to watch over eager customers in fist fights on the news. Yes, I know that these people are probably outliers, but why has it come to this?
Why do some justify that it’s the BEST or only day to get gifts for those we love?
Black Friday used to actually be on Friday, but slowly it’s crept into Thursday evening. People are encouraged to rush their dinner and get to the stores to avoid lines.
Now that I’m miles away from home I see just how devastating it’s become.
In America we are conditioned to support capitalism under the guise of more altruistic principles. It’s kind of creepy actually. A season of thanksgiving and gratefulness has absolutely nothing to do with buying more stuff.
We convince ourselves that buying more stuff for others will make them happy and that we are truly good people when we buy more for them. Spreading the happiness right?….well, maybe.
Outside of the fact that the Thanksgiving narrative was created on false historical terms (that’s a whole other issue), America, like clock work, has turned a holiday into something it’s not….
Then, we justify our greed and false need for material abundance by telling ourselves that we are truly thankful. But are we really???
In his book, Slipstream Time Hacking, Benjamin Hardy explains that excess is actually a suppressant to abundance. “Excess represents the broad path which most people travel.”
In a weird way, Black Friday no longer feels optional. It’s become a worldwide trend. Much of it encourages excess. Yet, in America we console ourselves during Black Friday by gently reminding everyone that we have a lot to be thankful for. It’s easier to pat ourselves on the back rather than look in the mirror.
So, the next question you’re probably wondering is….”Well, what does all of this mean for me?”
Am I evil or selfish for wanting a good deal?
Is capitalism an inherently bad thing?
Can’t I be thankful and also be a consumer?
I do believe that one CAN have it both ways….but, if we’re not careful it can become a slippery slope. Our culture doesn’t necessarily make it easy. Companies know how to play into our join-the-bandwagon tendencies and lack of self control.
I equate it to shopping at Target. Many people may be able to sympathize because I read about this same experience all the time on social media.
It goes something like this:
You walk in the store just happy to browse, knowing there’s nothing you truly need or even want. Or, maybe you just go in for one thing. Slowly the store sucks you in with it’s bright adds and organised displays. Before you know it you’re at the check out with God knows what. You love the things you’ve bought, and you add it to the collection of things you already have.
I’ve wrestled with this.
You see, as a fashion blogger I love clothing, style and beauty. I love shopping and seeing new trends that inspire my artistic side. At the same time, I constantly have to check myself. As much as I love clothing, it will not change who I am as a person.
Deals will not lengthen my lifespan, or foster closer relationships with people if the focus of what I do is on acquiring more.
More things do not validate my worth.
Cool clothes do not truly make me more beautiful. A tree full of gifts under it does not mean that you have a successful family or positive life.
What area is it for you?
For some people it’s tech stuff, for others it’s home goods. Or maybe this doesn’t even apply to you and you’re stronger than most. As a millennial I feel like I get to see this in action. Much of the millennial narrative fosters an ideal that we need to build wealth, be a boss and be hashtag “goals” by acquiring more, being more and showing the world that we have it. What many fail to realize is that “more” isn’t always better.
Do I think Black Friday is a bad thing?.. No.
Buying things in and of itself is not the problem.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday are not bad, but but in more ways than one we are building a culture that contradicts not only what it means to be thankful, but live in a state of continuous gratitude.
After years of snagging great deals and celebrating Thanksgiving I feel like we as a people have lost the art of simplicity. Many people can’t just sit down around a table and eat as an isolated event. There always has to be more.
But what if we believed that less really is more?
What if more people believed that they could be happy with just the essentials?
That being thankful is, within itself, a daily opportunity to stop time and reveal the wealth that we all already possess?
So what does it mean to actually practice gratefulness and live out thanksgiving.
The thing that comes to mind is a quote by Thich Nan which states, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” In this sense, maybe striving for Thanksgiving by making it a two day extravaganza that always leads to the next big thing with all the bells and whistles is counterintuitive. Maybe thankfulness is more about remembering that we really lack nothing. That were are blessed with more than we realize and that we don’t need as much as we think. Maybe Thanksgiving is about prioritizing what we value and staying committed to those things, day in and day out, continuously.
I’m not saying it’s always easy.
We as humans tend to forget very easily. We seek more and fight to always live beyond our current reality. Even with these challenges, I’m convinced that Thanksgiving is still less complicated than we often make it out to be. Holiday’s and celebrations most definitely have their place in our lives. We should be joyful and get excited about things. Still, like all things in life, maintaining a healthy perspective is important, lest we loose sight of why we celebrate.
As the year comes to a close how will giving thanks take shape in your life?
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