Mesa Musings: Thanksgiving needs more attention

My neighbor has a huge plastic blow-up turkey on his front lawn.

Good for him!

Alas, he's an anachronism. You rarely see Thanksgiving displays anymore. During my lifetime, enthusiasm for the holiday has diminished markedly.

That's sad.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was America's No. 2 holiday, behind Christmas and a notch ahead of Fourth of July. Now it's an afterthought, lost between Halloween's sugar bender and the commercial extravaganza that is Christmas.

If Thanksgiving were once the American holiday equivalent of Manchester United of the English Premier League, sadly, it's now in jeopardy of being relegated to Division 2. Arbor Day elicits more passion.

Nowadays we go straight from Halloween into Christmas mode, with barely a tip of the hat to Myles Standish.

And, speaking of Halloween, why has this once creepy little confection developed such importance in recent decades? It used to be a one-night wonder. No longer.

Halloween is a big deal. People bedeck their homes in orange lights, skeletons, witches and jack-o'-lanterns weeks before the actual holiday. Once upon a time it was: "Good! The 31st is over. Now we can focus on Thanksgiving! I can't wait for Macy's helium balloons!" (That New York parade, by the way, is where Santa makes his official season debut — not one moment before!)

Now our malls are adorned in Christmas glitz the day after Halloween. Sugarplum fairies dance before us for two months!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not down on Christmas. I'm deeply moved each time I see a manger scene or hear carolers sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" or "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." But what happened to November displays of pilgrims, turkeys and cornucopias?

What happened to Thanksgiving morning church services with hymns like "Now Thank We All Our God" and "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing"?

And how many of our youngsters today actually know who we're thanking, and for what?

I have an Irish friend in her 50s who has lived in this country for 30 years.

"My favorite holiday since coming to the U.S. is Thanksgiving," she told me recently. "It's uniquely American. It's good for a society to express its gratitude."

I agree. And, like you, I have much to be thankful for.

For me, Thanksgiving will always be:

Detroit vs. Green Bay;

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade;

My family gathered at 2 p.m. around an over-burdened table, heaped with harvest delicacies;

The privilege I've been granted by my family to offer the Thanksgiving blessing;

Turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce;

Mom's special stuffing, bathed in giblet gravy;

Pumpkin pie; and

Turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches for lunch Friday.

I remember Thanksgiving 1966 in Seoul, Korea. I was a G.I. and I walked a half-mile in snow flurries to a mess hall for our noon Thanksgiving meal. The U.S. Army does many things well, but what it does better than almost anything else is prepare Thanksgiving dinner for its troops. Gastronomical bliss!

I remember Thanksgiving 1967 in Costa Mesa. I was fresh out of the service, and mom prepared my first Thanksgiving feast at home in four years. We ate early because I had to be at work by 2 p.m. I swore I'd never work on Thanksgiving again, and, thankfully, I haven't had to.

I remember Thanksgiving 1981 in Maui. Hedy and I took our daughters to Hawaii for the holiday. We had a wonderful time, but missed our family back home.

I remember Thanksgiving 1999 in Costa Mesa. We were grateful for our first grandchild (we now have seven), who was 4 months old at the time.

I remember Thanksgiving 2008 in North Carolina. Hedy and I spent it with our middle daughter, her husband and four of our grandchildren. It was our first Thanksgiving dinner with biscuits.

With our new 3-month-old granddaughter now in the fold, we're sure to remember Thanksgiving 2011! Take a moment to count your blessings this season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.

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