November 14th, 2013

Put Away The Pumpkins And Bring Out The Stockings?

Wait! What Happened To Thanksgiving?

guidoIt seems as though the holiday shopping season arrives earlier and earlier with each passing year. That’s because it does!

“Walmart declared the holiday shopping season open…nearly a month ahead of its usual Thanksgiving schedule…the offers included (huge) discounts…usually reserved for Black Friday,” reported The Washington Post recently.

Of course, the chain is not alone. A slew of major retailers also have announced early holiday discounts in recent days. This is OK. I tend to do my holiday gift shopping very early, actually throughout the year and primarily online. I avoid shopping malls.

What bugs me about the premature, retailer-driven holiday shopping frenzy is that Thanksgiving and its underlying meaning get lost in the mix.

Thanksgiving is probably the most meaningful holiday and, sadly, the most under appreciated. It seems somewhat neatly tucked away between the annual Halloween observance and Christmas. Heck, I have yet to stop reveling in still-fresh memories of the Cardinal costume I braved in public just two weeks ago tonight after more than 40 years of boycotting Halloween (the costume part, not the giving out candy part). Now, just as I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, they are pressuring us to put away the pumpkins! Really?

The Reverend Peter Gomes, distinguished professor in the Harvard University Divinity School once wrote, “When I saw the Christmas lights being strung up across the city streets and the Santa Clauses in the store windows…I knew that Thanksgiving could not be far away.”

In Gomes view, we have forgotten Thanksgiving in contemporary life, and more fundamentally, we have forgotten the very reason for Thanksgiving: expressing gratitude.

‘In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.’ –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Which brings me to the real purpose for this week’s post: a recommended read that is actually perfect for Thanksgiving — Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, by Robert E. Emmons. A leading scholar in the positive psychology movement, he also is editor in chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology.

booklook2In Thanks!, Emmons draws on the first major study of the subject of gratitude, of “wanting what we have,” and shows that a systematic cultivation of this under-examined emotion can measurably change people’s lives. In sum, Emmons’ work provides “a scientifically groundbreaking, eloquent look at how we benefit psychologically, physically, and interpersonally when we practice gratitude.”

Though somewhat heavy on the social sciences to boost his argument regarding the need for more gratitude in today’s world, the author does a good job of weaving in the writings of philosophers, novelists and theologians with great insights on the topic.

At just over 200 pages, it’s a quick and gratifying read, particularly at this time of year, and a great reminder that life is not about what you get, but what you give.


Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier

Robert E. Emmons

Houghton Mifflin


Paperback, 209 pages

ISBN: 978-0-547-08573-9







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