Because of the pandemic, there have been calls for people to not get together for the traditional family and friends gathering at the Thanksgiving holiday, held on the fourth Thursday of November. Such gatherings can be a major cause of virus spread and since old people are often involved, this could be hazardous. People are also being urged to not travel, but today comes news that Sunday saw the highest number of air travelers since March, suggesting that many people are ignoring that advice,
One suggestion that has been made is to postpone this year’s Thanksgiving to (say) next July when the pandemic might be more under control. This might be a good opportunity renew my long-standing plea to shift Thanksgiving permanently to the last Thursday in October because that makes a lot more sense. There is a long drought of holidays between Labor Day and Christmas and a late October holiday would fall nicely in the middle. It would also enable a more convenient fall break for students in schools and colleges. Also the weather would be much better. Right now, it is not uncommon for a massive snowstorm to hit during the Thanksgiving weekend, snarling traffic, shutting down flights, and stranding travelers all over the place.
There is nothing special about the current date that was fixed in 1941 by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a compromise with those in Congress and business who wanted a day that was close enough to Christmas to spur thoughts of holiday shopping but not too close that there were not enough days to do so. Before that, Lincoln had decreed in 1863 that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November but that meant that it would sometimes fall on November 30th, and businesses felt that that gave them too few days. Nowadays, with online shopping and relentless year-round marketing to people, this consideration may not be such a factor for businesses and they may not oppose the shift to the end of October.
What will be a major obstacle is people’s dogged reluctance to change a practice that they have got accustomed to simply because is is ‘tradition’, even if there really is no real reason to cling to it. But there is no doubt that suggestions like mine will be used to add a phony ‘war on Thanksgiving’ claim to add to the phony ‘war on Christmas’.
I will be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas alone at home this year, a first for me. Being someone who is comfortable with solitude and does not pay any attention to events like birthdays and other ‘special days’, this does not bother me in the least. Even if I were a big fan of celebratory events, foregoing them for a year to help slow the spread of a pandemic seems like a really minor sacrifice, hardly a hardship to complain about.