You will, no doubt, remember our award winning coverage of the history of animated specials and the Top Shelf picks for Halloween specials. When I say award winning, I mean that it should have won an award if there was such a thing. But let's stay on track here...
Thanksgiving is no stranger to the animated special. However, it does get short shrift as far as the amount and quality of specials. In fact, we dare say that only the Fourth of July and Labor Day fare worse. Labor Day was a goner the minute Jerry Lewis locked it in, and they realized no one care to see an animated musical about the AFL-CIO. Columbus Day doesn't count, because we all know it's not politically correct. Are there still places that celebrate that archaic holiday? I mean when will people learn that Columbus, OH is frightening place and never deserved a holiday to begin with. Just think of all the other deserving towns or cities that deserve... wait a second... I'm getting some information from the production team... Christopher who? Oh... I see. Well, that's different. Ahem.
Back to our feature.
Like the Thanksgiving animated special, the holiday itself is sort of in a bit of limbo. I know many people who enjoy Thanksgiving as one of their favorite holidays, myself included. Everything about it is pleasant, especially the older you get. I mean, once you get bumped up from the kiddy table to fill a vacancy at the "Main Table" - there's no turning back. At least until Aunt Mabel comes back next year when her rheumatism isn't so bad. Darn that Aunt Mabel.
Since Halloween folded up and left town, Christmas busted into town, without any regard for Thanksgiving, or even without calling ahead first to let us know it was on the way. In the rush to get the house ready- Thanksgiving- expected and invited- was knocking at the door. We answer the door sheepishly, knowing what needs to said. Thanksgiving, grinning from ear to ear has no clue. All we can say is, "Come on in, Thanksgiving. Good to see you. Sorry we can't visit long. You see, Christmas just blew into town and we kind of weren't expecting him this early. I'm sure you understand. Just stay and have some dinner and watch a little T.V. before Christmas gets here. Then we've got to rush, rush, rush. You know how it is. The house has to be just right."
Yeah. See what I mean. Short shrift.
Retail stores are barely putting discount signs on the Halloween candy the day before Halloween, and the Christmas candy and other holiday flash and tinsel was on the next shelf- waiting for Halloween to vacate the place like some New Yorker waiting for the tenant above them to die so they can move in to that rent controlled haven. It's fairly pathetic. The day after Halloween, I snuck down to the nearby unnamed electronics store chain and they were playing Christmas music. Freakin' Christmas music. Shelfers, I know you have been there. I know you have your own sad little experiences. It's not that Christmas isn't great. It is. We are big fans of Christmas here at The Shelf, as you will see coming in the month ahead. But all things must be enjoyed in moderation and in perspective. In fact, I would argue that without first commemorating a day of thanks, we are essentially diluting the true spirit of Christmas and the season in general. Since when did our culture stop needing to feel and recognize gratitude? Since never. Duh.
Popular culture is a wonderful thing, but it sort of has an "evil twin" side to it called over-commercialization. That used to be a very popular term back in the 60s and 70s when everyone worried about the holidays becoming too commercialized. But I've got news for ya': it's been going on for decades. It's fine in some aspects. Surely, certain holiday commercials and products occupy warm spots in our hearts. But when it is done in non-stop excess, we can't enjoy it. In fact we may resent it. And the thing is, Thanksgiving is kind of hard to commercialize, outside of food and maybe cards. It doesn't mean companies haven't tried, but in the end a day based on gratitude is a hard way to sell toys and candy. So the companies pay perfunctory tribute to Thanksgiving while they are rolling out the toys and candy and hawk decorations and advice on how to have the perfect Christmas. The T.V. and stores tell you to hurry, "time's a-wastin' "(wither Snuffy Smith?) and you have to buy this and that to have it just right. If it's not right, then no one will enjoy it! Rubbish. As it is- all this stuff puts family time in tretcherous territory. Now, don't get me wrong. Decorating, baking, etc. is wonderful for the holidays. But when you are worrying about perfection, what time do you have left for the loved ones who don't want perfect- they just want you. Truth hurts, doesn't it? If you only learn one thing today Shelfers, learn this: There can be too much of a good thing. Too much of anything leaves little room for anything else.
Remember Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory? All the kids that were abducted by Oompa Loompas and never seen again, were children in excess. All kids like candy and television, etc., but it has to be moderated by things like heart, learning, and living a good life. The true blessing of childhood is the ability of children to see truth, feel love and express them both. When we adults cram everything down their throats and indulge every single whim- we dilute that. Sometimes to the point of obliterating that. That's what the Oompa Loopmas were singing: "Who's to blame? The Mother and the Father." Didn't catch that the first time you saw it did you? Oompa Loompa, Doompety do.
Perhaps it's the feeling that holiday purchases are being forced down our throats- or perhaps it's because we feel like the things like products and perfection are getting in the way of time with family and friends; but that same thing happens to holidays. Days that were meant, like children, to express love and truth- become diluted by gross commercialization.
Therefore, today at the Shelf we are making the case for Thanksgiving. We throw the gaunlet down- we dare you to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, in full, and hold off on Christmas til next week. Sit down with your kids and enjoy some holiday cheer. Keep the Christmas stuff in the attic for now. Watch some Thanksgiving specials, bake some pumpkin pies, and heck throw in the ol' hand turkey. Enjoy Thanksgiving in it's fullness and aromas, in it's family time and goofy traditions. And be grateful that old Aunt Mabel is still around to tell you those silly stories about her rheumatism. Remember she may not be around next year. While you may be bumped up to the "Main table," we know that you look back at the kiddy table with fondness. Maybe next week once you are in the stores, hearing der Bingle croonin' about Rudolph above the din of the crowd, you will have carried a bit of the grateful spirit along with you. And then you'll thank us. Trust me, it will be worth it.
And next year, when Christmas blows into town right after Halloween skips out, tell 'em you already got company. Thanksgiving is propping it's feet up and staying a while. Tell Christmas you'll be glad to see it in December.
Tomorrow in part II, we look at the rare species known as Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. Be here.
I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.