The commercialization of Christmas has long been a complaint of the masses, dating at the least to the mid 1960’s when Charlie Brown decried the aluminum Christmas trees and longed for someone to tell him the true meaning of Christmas. The cry that Thanksgiving has become too commercial has increased as Sears and many Walmart stores have announced they will be open on Thanksgiving Day this year.
Before we start a protest of Sears and Walmart though, we need to go back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as perhaps the spark that turned Thanksgiving into a retail holiday. Thanksgiving was officially observed on the final Thursday of November from 1863 until 1939, when FDR moved the observance to the third Thursday in hopes of increasing retail Christmas sales during the Great Depression. The holiday was sarcastically referred to as Franksgiving. In 1941 FDR signed an official proclamation returning Thanksgiving to the final Thursday in November, where it remains to this day.
I was not surprised to hear that Sears and Walmart will be open on Thanksgiving this year – actually I’m more surprised that it hadn’t happened earlier. Only a few days after Labor Day this year, stores were putting out their Christmas decoration displays, right next to the Halloween decorations, and it was very obvious that Thanksgiving was being left out in the cold.
When I was a little kid in the 1960’s, many stores were closed on Saturdays, and on Sundays most every retail establishment was closed (even gas stations). Now, every day of the week looks very much the same in the retail world and in how many people live. The advent of the internet and cell phones that do it all, leave many people constantly attached to their work, and blur the lines between work time and family time. In the larger picture, Sears and Walmart open for a few hours on the last Thursday of November is not very shocking.
So, my question to you is does it matter that more retailers are going to be open on Thanksgiving Day? In I Thessalonians 5, verses 16-18, we are admonished to:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
There is nothing magical about the last Thursday in November. For Christians, it should be just another day to rejoice in the love and Salvation of God through His Son, Jesus Christ … even if Sears is open.