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Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday which means it is inclusive of all beliefs and everyone is invited to celebrate. It is not a commercial holiday; other than food there are no presents to buy. Thanksgiving was founded to encourage us to spend time at home  with our families and reflect on our many blessings. At least that was the intention. That was the way it used to be.

Now Thanksgiving is just the warm-up, a time to rest and fuel up before the real holiday begins on Black Friday (which is not to be confused with Good Friday). Black Friday is the starting gun for serious shoppers. In many communities this year that bang went off as soon as the last football sailed through the goal posts on Thanksgiving evening. Large retailers opened for business before the drumsticks were in the refrigerator.

The holiday shopping season now stretches from Halloween through Christmas and then into the after Christmas sales that often continue until mid-January – that’s two and one-half months of intense consumer indoctrination. The Christmas season is now a feeding frenzy when we as a culture give ourselves permission to indulge our fantasies, give into greed, and satiate our desires.

We are willingly seduced when we are told that once we purchase that big screen/I-Pod/video game/cashmere sweater we will be happy – and for a few hours we are. But the craving comes back, again and again for seeking/shopping/buying/owning is an addiction – a sickness of the soul.

We are so busy eating and swallowing the material things of the world that we can hardly breathe. There is an insatiable emptiness within that demands to be fed with things, with sensations, with fame, with power and no matter how much we buy, it’s not enough.

We remind ourselves to curb our spending and shop on a budget; to remember the real meaning of Christmas. But as soon as we walk into the mall and see the twinkling lights and bright colors, we become entranced, entrained and all our good intentions are forgotten as we pull out our credit cards.

Is it possible to enjoy the holidays and buy only token presents, gifts that cost little or no money? Could we buy all of our presents at a thrift store? Can we exchange material presents for the gift of time? Instead of buying things for each other, can we buy things for those who have little? These are all rhetorical questions because the answer is obviously ‘yes.’  But do we have the will to do it?

Don’t be surprised if a year or two from now, the After Christmas sales start at 6 pm on Christmas Day. After we open the presents what else is there to do anyway and the stores will have such good deals! Remember, the holidays are all about togethernesss and the family that shops together stays together – if only to pay the bills.