November first. The day after Halloween and the middle of autumn. November—a month for so long dedicated to giving thanks—has now been seized and held captive by Christmas. In the country of its origin, Thanksgiving has become obsolete. Rather than swapping vampires and witches with turkeys and cornucopias, the day after Halloween Americans replace pumpkins with Santa. Starbucks unleashes “the red cups” and gallons of pumpkin spice lattes are washed down the drain. Who stole Thanksgiving? I want it back!
Autumn is the most beautiful season in the northern regions of The United States. Golden leaves, crisp temperatures, snuggly sweaters, and death romanticized, autumn is a reminder of our mortality and the human condition. Why can’t we continue to revel in its beauty until Thanksgiving—the holiday created by Americans? Besides, winter in the midwest is brutal, so why would we want to summon it prematurely?
Not only is November a month that reflects autumn beauty, but also it gives us Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day, requires zero presents! There are no baskets holding bounty, no jewelry encased in pink and red wrapping, no expensive presents cleverly placed under trees. Thanksgiving is the only holiday that allows us to sit down together, eat, and share our love with each other. In fact, it’s the one holiday we feel comfortable enough inviting random foreign exchange students over because we’re feeling ever generous (especially because it’s not religious and personal like Christmas).
When we sit down to share a meal on Thanksgiving, we’re not just participating in a beautiful tradition (*ignoring its colonial, violent roots for just a moment, please) that values familial relationships and friendships, we’re not only practicing gratitude and generosity, but we’re also living in the moment. For so much of our lives we prepare for the next day, the next year, the next decade of our lives. When I was in elementary school, I resented the fact that every year my teachers reminded us what we needed to learn for high school. In high school, I was told I was learning things because it would be useful for college. The cycle continues to this day: every moment of our day is in some preparation for the next—perhaps even to distract us from the very morbid thought that there may not be another moment, and who is to say these things even matter? (Very existentialist, I know.) Again, Thanksgiving is the one holiday where people of every or no religion can celebrate gratefulness, relationships, food (the stuff of life!), and the present moment. The fact that this mindful holiday has been overpowered by the aggressive greed of secular Christmas is indicative of our consumer-driven culture. And that makes me sad.
Our constant consumption of products is wreaking havoc on the earth. We mindlessly consume more and more with nowhere in our homes to store it and nowhere on the earth to discard it. Organization is something I’m passionate about, and I’m even more passionate about having few things to organize. I don’t believe you have to become a total minimalist in order to heal the earth or live a guilt-free life, but I do believe that it’s important for all of us to reject or refuse unnecessary consumption, which includes material possessions, food, and time-sucking activities. We live in a constant state of consumption—from clothing, to food, to oil, to news, to entertainment—every aspect of life is about creating and consuming more.
How do we steer our capitalist, consumer-driven economy and culture in a more sustainable way?
How do I contribute?
I believe my contribution is through refusing and rejecting products, food, news, and entertainment that I don’t need, or that which doesn’t nourish my spirit, and encouraging (non-judgmentally, I hope… eek) others to do the same. It’s a long, arduous road we must stumble down to break our wasteful habits and replace them with sustainable habits, but I believe it’s worth it. And I’m right on that road with you, stumbling, falling, and picking myself back up. There are many things I could do to waste less, and many areas I know I have already failed at in terms of waste and consumption. But I will keep trying.
I hope to reflect this Thanksgiving—as the leaves die, crumble, and fall—on living my one life to its fullest and making the world a kinder, cleaner, more gentle place. Just a little bit every day, I believe, can work wonders. Will you join me?
So I ask you: bring back Thanksgiving! Don’t buy your Christmas tree until—at least—the day after your gut is filled with turkey. Don’t hang those intergalactic blue lights on your porch and station those environmentally unfriendly plastic Santas on your lawn. And hold off on the nativity scene until December first.
Appreciate autumn. Live in the now. Slow down to smell the turkey. And let the last leaf fall before you invoke the gods of ice, wind, and snow. Trust me, you’ll wish you gave Thanksgiving your full attention come January 2017: Polar Vortex The Sequel.
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