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A requiem for Thanksgiving

For others, the idea that today, the day after Thanksgiving, marked the start of the holiday shopping season is likely a statement of a dying age.

Some of you no doubt hit the aisles Thanksgiving Day. It’s an increasingly popular trend — especially for large, corporately owned retail outlets — to seek a competitive edge, opening earlier and earlier each holiday shopping season.

This year, in fact, there was quite a dichotomy on display at several retailers as Christmas holiday decor accented the shopping for freaky evil jester masks and werewolf costumes meant for Halloween revelers.

The unfortunate result, however, is that Thanksgiving, as a traditional meal that brings families together over the dinner table, is becoming a mere bump on the road to commercial savings.

The same thing happened to Sundays not too long ago.

Exactly when it happened is difficult to pinpoint. A Google search references the 1980s, which seems about right, for when more and more businesses started to cast aside their traditional, faith-based reasoning for closing up shop on Sundays.

Whether your reasoning was religious or not, some undoubtedly recall Sundays as a time when the option for shopping was silenced through the sheer absence of open businesses. Instead, we spent time as a family, perhaps making trips to go sled-riding, if the weather suited, or just kicking around the house. We were forced to spend time together, to figure out ways to engage each other as families and friends that didn’t involve a commercial vehicle.

Even more, it allowed the employees of retail businesses to have a guaranteed break, one when they could be assured that their schedules matched up with their family members and friends.

Today, Sunday shopping is commonplace, with few exceptions. Some of those exceptions occur in states with so-called “blue laws” that, in some cases, prohibit certain retail businesses from opening on Sundays or holidays.

Massachusetts, for example, allows some retail businesses to open on Sundays, though those retailers — including the Big Box variety — are required to pay their employees time and a half. As for holidays, forget it. Retailers in Massachusetts are specifically prohibited from opening on the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

According to a recent article in the Boston Herald, the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Standards has not issued a statewide permit for retailers to open for Thanksgiving or Christmas since 2002.

Though it’s likely not rational to consider that society should roll back the clock to Puritanical times and all of the anachronistic baggage that comes with it, we believe there is merit to consider the Thanksgiving that just passed as, possibly, one of the last that held value as the traditional meal of appreciation for the harvest it was meant to be. (And, no doubt, for those who view Thanksgiving as an abominable observance of the Puritans’ subjugation of the Native Americans who attended the so-called “first Thanksgiving,” itself a cause of much debate, the demise of Thanksgiving might just be a good thing.)

Much like Sundays, the special, social and familial qualities Thanksgiving has provided for us are in decline.

And that, more than any overindulgence of food or drink, is a cause for indigestion.