Holidays often threaten to be overwhelmed by commercialism, and exhibit A in that regard is probably Christmas. What began as a charming celebration of evergreen trees in Germany tied to an observation of the winter solstice during the Middle Ages has expanded somewhat, just a little, since then to become one of the most important marketing moments of the entire year.

Thanksgiving has also taken on its share of that flavor - "Black Friday" of Thanksgiving weekend is an epic event in the retailing world as we all know - and the days leading up to Thanksgiving offer merchants several levers to pull as well to tempt consumers to part with their money. And there's nothing wrong with that, for the most part.

But thankfully, and no pun intended, Thanksgiving has retained a good measure of its genuineness as a holiday when we are encouraged to do something we should all probably do more of the other 364 days of the year - sit back, reflect, and be thankful for what we do have. The quest for more can wait for another day. Whether its good friends, family, health or just being here, everyone probably has something they can find that makes life seem valuable, worthwhile and offers satisfaction. The rituals of Thanksgiving - sitting down together with friends and family, or in a large community-style gathering at a church or some other venue - lend themselves to seeing the glass half-full rather than half-empty. And you don't need to buy presents or mail cards to validate the experience. You just have to show up.

Many cultures may have ways of expressing thanks and gratitude, but the traditional form of Thanksgiving we practice here is a uniquely American creation, springing from the Pilgrims and Native Americans of the early 1620s. The concept is both brilliant and relaxing. We should probably make room on the calendar for more than one such moment, but that might dilute its impact. One such moment will have to do.

This year is a special case also since it coincides through a quirk of the calendar with Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday, which has some interesting parallels with Thanksgiving, as we see from the nearby op-ed piece elsewhere in this section of the newspaper. The overlap of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving won't happen again for a very long time.

We have a lot to be thankful for as a people and a nation, even those of us who may be down on their luck or depressed about opportunities that seem to have been, for the moment at least, squandered or not taken full advantage of. We are a free people, relatively speaking; free to voice our views and opinions within reason. There are plenty of places around the world where that is not so. Many of us struggle economically and feel like no matter how hard we try, we can't get ahead or are stuck in place.

Those are real issues and problems, and some future Thanksgiving, we'll have the opportunity, we hope, to include on our list of things to be thankful for a government and a private sector that is working more in harmony -- along with a government at the federal level that is simply working. In the meanwhile, we have a day to step off the treadmill; most us anyway, who aren't working someplace, and count our blessings. Might as well take advantage of it.


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