Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Texas columnist shows how modern times create a "whenever" Thanksgiving for many

Columnist Mary Jane McKinney of The Canadian Record in Canadian, Texas, brings us a thoughtful exploration of how Thanksgiving is changing in modern times:

The "Whenever" Thanksgiving is catching on. Families are getting together weeks before the official holiday. A recent survey reports that 16 percent of respondents plan a "Whenever" Thanksgiving. Another 13 percent say they will consider a "Whenever" in the future (Source: CivicScience). Thanksgiving is morphing into something new in American culture. Reducing stress, maximizing time off from work and school, and exercising freedom of choice is transforming Thanksgiving. Playing around with the traditional holiday is a response to the following factors:
  • Air fares. The airlines hike up fares for the holiday and will not allow the use of most frequent-flyer miles. To save money on travel, families are flying to grandma and grandpa's on a weekend in early November at bargain rates.
  • Work schedules. Ever since the long Thanksgiving weekend became a shopping marathon, more and more people have to be on the job that weekend. People who work in retail, restaurants, law enforcement, transportation, and many other industries do not get Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday off. They have been enjoying the "Whenever" Thanksgiving for years.
  • Shopping. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have become traditions. Many stores are open for business on Thanksgiving Day. Some families celebrate the shopping get-together more than the dining get-together aspect of the holiday. Thanksgiving dinner for bargain-hunters is pizza at the food court in the mall.
  • Vacation. Four-day weekends are rare. A Thursday holiday is weird to begin with. It was only a matter of time before the four-day weekend out-weighed tradition. The opportunity for a  family vacation at Thanksgiving is tempting families and singles to plan trips in advance and use the four days for a mini-vacation.
  • The meal. The turkey dinner is a turn-off. To great-grandma, baking turkey and dressing, making gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls, and pies was perfectly normal. The thought of spending a holiday preparing the labor-intensive turkey and trimmings drives many men and women cooks to embrace alternative traditions. Why spend a holiday slaving away in the kitchen? The fast food and take-out dinner generations prefer easy food preparation that doesn't take time--or waste vacation time. Even accomplished cooks are used to tossing a salad and throwing some meat in the crockpot or on the grill.
  • Charity work. Volunteering to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a church, soup kitchen or homeless shelter is taking hold as a holiday ritual. Families are sitting down for turkey dinner at a local charity instead of eating at home.
American culture moves fast and is constantly changing. The Thanksgiving tradition is getting together with family and friends for a communal meal. It doesn't matter if the meal is at a homeless shelter, the mall, or three weeks before the holiday. Friends in California have been gathering at a park with old friends and neighbors for a covered dish Thanksgiving picnic for 30 years. Friends in New York watch the Macy's parade, shop at Macy's afterwards, and join friends for Peking duck at a Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. Other friends take an annual camping trip on the Llano River and eat, campfire style.

There is another factor in play that is driving the change in Thanksgiving traditions: divorce. My nephew, Billy's, parents divorced and remarried. He married a woman whose parents divorced and remarried. Now, Billy's two sons have four sets of grandparents who expect to spend holidays with their grandsons. The stress at holiday time is overwhelming. Last year, Bill and his wife hosted a "Whenever" Thanksgiving for most of the family members involved--those on speaking terms anyway. The "Whenever" was a huge success.

Whenever you are celebrating, here's wishing you happy shopping-volunteering-vacationing-Thanksgiving!

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