Words: Thanksgiving Shadows

image from the library of congress

It seems every year that Thanksgiving becomes more and more the great afterthought of the holiday season.

It is the hub between the ever more popular Halloween and Christmas, the great holiday hump day; in other words, like Wednesday it is not a weekend, but at least it isn’t Tuesday or Monday.

There are no Thanksgiving trees at Hallmark. No one has a turkey ornament. I have never received a Thanksgiving card

Worse, if you go to many stores today it is almost nonexistent in our world, except being remembered as the day before we can all shop like fiends… Well, some stores open Thanksgiving evening now, so maybe for the next generation Thanksgiving will become something akin to the food and water station at a marathon, the haven for that bit of energy before you get to it!

Run, my little shoppers, run…

Could it be argued that Black Friday has taken over Thanksgiving in importance? Possibly.  Our economy couldn’t live without Black Friday (and Cyber Monday); no one would say the same for Thanksgiving, save the Turkey farmers.

Gobble gobble, indeed.


Thanksgiving is the middle Brady Bunch child.

Not the older popular one (who may be a cheerleader dating Davy Jones or a rock star photographer) or the overly young cute one.

No, it is the awkward one in the middle wearing fake wigs or with a voice that shows all the signs of a difficult puberty.  The one the wise parents have to have a little more heart-to-heart conversations with, agreeing that they know it isn’t fair.

“It isn’t fair. Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!”


It isn’t fair. Thanksgiving, you are right. You never had a chance.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have candy or costumes, it doesn’t have Santa Claus and presents. Thanksgiving is a family feast, and for some of us out there that is little more than a Sunday dinner moved to a Thursday.

There isn’t a lot of planning that goes into Thanksgiving. It doesn’t take days of choosing costumes or putting up trees or shopping. That’s not to dismiss the cooking part, but that is a day to maybe two, nothing compared to the planning and excitement around its holiday bookends.

Because of the day off, I would argue that in the least Thanksgiving is something akin to a Labor Day or a Memorial Day, mainly for the idea of gathering together and having a day off. I would never go so low as to compare it to a Columbus Day, or worse, an Arbor Day. Yet, in the great list of holidays, it is under the rest of the big ones, just three steps shy of a Valentine’s Day.


Do you want to know how unpopular Thanksgiving is? Consider this:

When Charlie Brown made his Thanksgiving special (A very boring title- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving), even the great Charles M. Schulz could find little to do with the holiday. Oh, yes, the idea of Linus and Snoopy having to make a makeshift Thanksgiving for their friends is funny (popcorn and toast, which to me is awesome on any day), but there is little else going on in the episode. There is no big message, no memorable moments that capture a feeling or time. What do we get for the holiday? Snoopy fighting a table and the disturbing ending image of Woodstock about to feast on another bird.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (and even to a lesser degree It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) is filled with memorable themes and music that capture the season almost perfectly, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has none of that. The best the Peanuts crew can do is a song about a little birdie and the poem/song “Over the River and Through the Woods,” which is probably the only song about Thanksgiving in existence (and yet, people change the lyrics to work for Christmas, so who knows if even Thanksgiving owns it at this point).

Oh, Snoopy you have done better.


Halloween may have ghosts, but I have always felt that Thanksgiving to be the most haunted of the holidays.

When I was growing up, it would take three tables to cover the entire expanse of the family arriving to share turkey. Three tables! As a child, I remember having to almost push my way through my house or a relative’s house, as family members gathered around the TV or conversed in the kitchen, many times gossiping about the people in the other room or who couldn’t attend that year. Everyone was so much taller in those memories.

Sadly, I never made it to the top table, able to gaze down at the lessers below me. Over the years as family members each went their separate ways—as kids became parents and parents became grandparents, and the grandparents left—the number of tables dwindled with each passing holiday. Until all that remained was the one table and we were all at it, now awkwardly equal.

Yes, to me Thanksgiving is haunted, filled with memories and those memories are not distracted by presents or candy or special music, leaving the memories so thick you can almost touch them.

Memory is the one thing I feel on Thanksgiving more than any other holiday; making me wonder if we should embrace that more as a culture, make it a celebration of the past, looking towards the future. Yes, on this holiday the ghosts are in full display, as we gather with our full plates in front of us, and we raise our glasses giving thanks.

For on Thanksgiving there are always empty seats at the table.


Scott D. Southard is the author of A Jane Austen Daydream which was originally shared via this site. It is being published as both an ebook and paperback this December. More information on the book, as well as editorials, new fiction (including a new novel “experiment” called Permanent Spring Showers), and links to his previous books (My Problem With Doors and Megan), can be found on his personal site, sdsouthard.com