So at first glance you would not think that these two things are related.
However, as I just experienced my first ever Thanksgiving I can tell you they are closely connected.
And just to get that straight: I had a very nice Thanksgiving with Jeannette und Dick und Jeannette’s family. Wonderful food, lots of wine and a festive atmosphere.
So apparently, most Americans agree that they favor Thanksgiving over any other holiday. It is the day you spend with family and friends, it is about sharing food and enjoying each other’s company. Me as a naive German thought: how nice the Americans have a holiday that is devoted to family and friends and to think about what to be thankful for, oh and of course it is about watching Football. Not like Christmas which is more and more about consuming and spending money for presents. But I was wrong…
There is this side of Thanksgiving which makes you stop and think about what you are thankful for (even though there was no ritual of actually saying what you are thankful for…), but after promoting turkey and cranberry sauce, the main theme of Thanksgiving is shopping. The shops would open at midnight and Black Friday was all characterized by shopping, shopping, shopping. But as in Germany the Christmas stuff appears earlier in the shops with every year, the “great deals” already start on Thanksgiving. So what happens: people eat and then go off to buy something, anything. I have to confess that I was shocked when one of the woman at the table sat it is her Thanksgiving tradition to go shopping all night until 10 am the next morning!
Of course, Jeannette, Dick and me did not join in that tradition. We went home, stuffed from all the good food!
So instead of going shopping at Black Friday we went to the movies and watched the Hunger Games: Catching Fire. And I have to say: awesome movie! (Even though we had to sit in the second row, really, really close to the screen. Apparently after haven been shopping quite a lot of people decided to watch that movie too.)
Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with shopping on/after Thanksgiving. But it just made me realize that Thanksgiving like Christmas is about spending money. And again, I don’t want to doom that. I like getting presents and give presents. But maybe to actually experience the “Christmas spirit” one has to look beyond the lights, presents and music. This is all part of Christmas, but Christmas itself is about something very simple and yet something complex: birth and life. And even if you don’t celebrate it as the birth of Jesus, it is the beginning of life that is celebrated. And with every new life that is given (no matter if it is a prophet or an “ordinary” child) there is new hope. And for me it is this: hope and this sense of wonder about life that makes Christmas special.
And that is why I will never be too old to not be amazed by Christmas lights, the smell of Christmas markets and the melodies of the Christmas songs throughout the whole of December.