Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Forgotten Season

Cornucopia - Steve Mordue
Fifty or sixty years ago--not even a lifetime--there was an additional holiday season during the fall. After Halloween, there would be a full month before Christmas carols trilled on the airwaves, stores decorated evergreen trees--and gift advertisements began to run incessantly. During those autumns of yesteryear, the entire month of November was devoted to the celebration of that truly American holiday, Thanksgiving.

Indian Corn Door Hanging
In art class, I remember drawing turkeys on construction paper and fashioning pilgrim hats to bring home. Department store counter-tops were decorated with autumn leaves in their glorious riot of color. Around the neighborhood, cornucopias spilled their bounty from the center of dining room table tops, and the earth tones of Indian corn wreaths graced front doorways. When I was in elementary school, we had foil window decorations--autumn leaves, a big tom turkey, a pilgrim's hat--that my mother unpacked from the closet each year on November 1. We would tape them up in our living room window, where they stayed all month. The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day used to be a season of anticipation, looking forward to delicious food and warm fellowship. Once upon a time, Christmas could wait until the week after the big fall feast.

Somewhere along the decades, Thanksgiving got shoved aside by the over-commercialization of Christmas. I associate the decline of Thanksgiving with the growing secularism of our culture. There is no longer any sense of the rightness of pausing to offer gratitude to God, as the pilgrims once did and as generations of Americans following them did until recent decades. As for the meaning of waiting for Christmas as the celebration of the Lord's birth, again there is no reason to wait. As ironic as it may be, in our modern society God's connection to Christmas hangs on by the barest of threads. Especially in this century, you can listen to Christmas music streaming all day long and you'll never hear a traditional carol or a single whisper of "the reason for the season."

So we plunge from witches, ghosts, and carved pumpkins directly into trimming Christmas trees and shopping the sales without stopping to savor the beauty and grace of the Thanksgiving season. It is our loss that we have largely forgotten this special holiday that acknowledges the bounty of our land and the beauty of our families and friends. We still eat our turkey and stuffing, but rather than being its own meaningful event, Thanksgiving dinner now seems to be a pit-stop on the way to the mall.

Today I'd give a lot to see a few autumn leaves taped onto a living room window somewhere in my neighborhood.