Don’t forget true meaning of holidays

Published 12:06 am Friday, November 29, 2013

Where have the Thanksgivings and Christmases of my childhood gone?

When I was young, Thanksgiving morning was spent huddled under blankets on the couch watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Dressed in our pajamas, we watched the gigantic balloons float high above the streets of Manhattan. We waited impatiently for Santa Claus to reach Herald Square as the turkey baked in the oven.

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That was back in the day when Thanksgiving morning offered few options for entertainment. All of the stores in town were locked tight, including grocery stores. Cable offered 13 channels and the Internet only existed on a few college campuses.

School was out and neighborhood streets were quiet.

Watching the Macy’s parade was a tradition in our house. The children watched as mom and dad cooked the turkey, set the table and prepared for the afternoon dinner.

In my mind, Thanksgiving in my family’s house resembled the images Norman Rockwell painted for The Saturday Evening Post — simple nostalgia in warm, golden hues.

It was a family tradition that I have tried to revive the last couple of years with no real success.

This year the television was on. My son and his cousins were snuggled under blankets. Images of balloons were floating across the screen.

No one was watching.

My son Gibson sat mesmerized not by the inflatable Spiderman, but by the video game one of his cousins was playing on an iPhone. Headphones covered the ears of his other cousin as she watched videos on an iPad. Adults in the room were no different, reading email, texting and playing on their laptops and smartphones.

A once eagerly anticipated family tradition shared by all has evolved into an event shared by none.

With stores made over with snowflakes, candy canes and trees on the day after Halloween and Thanksgiving reduced to one display of autumn-colors paper plates and just another shopping day on the countdown to Christmas, the commercialization of all these once distinct traditions is enough to turn me into a Grinch or a Scrooge just as the holidays start to crank up.

Thankfully, this Thursday did include for my family a gathering of nearly 40 folk around tables filled with turkey, dressing and all the trimmings — favorites prepared, packed and driven by families over hundreds of miles to share.

It wasn’t the smoked turkey or the squash casserole that melted my icy mood. It wasn’t the sweet potato casserole or the pecan pie that sweetened my jaded disposition,

All that helped, but it was the laughter, smiles and joy that filled the room that recalled for me Theodore Geisel’s words in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”

“Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to grasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we,” Dr. Seuss wrote.

The words sound too simple to be true, yet in a world where the holidays seem under attack — when the Internet and video games crowd out traditions and when stores pay no respect to the traditions that do remain — the words remind us that Thanksgiving and Christmas can be anything, so long as we’re together.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at