Opinion: Thanksgiving gets the squeeze
|Published: 11-22-2023 4:00 PM
Brian Adams of Andover, Mass., is a UNH alumnus originally from Londonderry. He was previously a sketch comedy writing instructor and staff writer at ImprovBoston and a founding contributor to satirical online newspaper Recyculus. He is a father to three girls ages 6 and under.
Picture it: the year is 2046. The 4th of July fireworks have nearly come to an end, with the exception of the now-traditional final burst of fireworks, which forms a giant orange Jack-o-lantern in the sky, signaling the official beginning of Halloween festivities across the country. Iced pumpkin spice lattes are passed around in celebration as people excitedly discuss their plans for the Halloween season.
I’m not always one for making predictions, but based on my recent experiences, I can’t help but think this one is coming true. Halloween is expanding far outside the last day in October. My kids dressed up for Halloween about 14 times this year. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to get a 1-year-old into a barista costume? In case you’re curious, the answer is this: only slightly easier than it was to transform her twin sister into a tiny frappuccino. Luckily, my 6-year-old mermaid was mostly able to dress herself.
There was a time when kids dressed up once a year for Halloween, but I can personally assure you that this time has passed. In addition to trick-or-treat, there’s now Trunk-or-Treat, Boo at the Zoo (or Zoo Boo, depending on which zoo you like to do your booing at), an infinite amount of fall festivals, and a million local farms, each with their own haunted houses and hayrides to which you can wear your costume. Experienced attendees know to watch their step for the haunted horse manure. Do all of these festivities help the local economy? Yes. Is it a hassle to get my kids dressed up in costume every time we leave the house in October? Also yes.
When it comes to holiday expansion, Halloween is not the only culprit, though. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Santa. Christmas events have been moving earlier and earlier in the year as well. Some day in the not-so-distant future, you’ll be able to hear Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous holiday anthem on the radio before the first leaf in your yard starts to change color. Christmas was once contained almost entirely within the month of December, but years ago, Black Friday showed up the very next day after Thanksgiving. Could Thanksgiving possibly get a little room to breathe? No, it cannot, we collectively decided.
But when did this expansion of Christmas and Halloween start happening, cramming Thanksgiving into a window so small, you could hardly fit a greased butterball turkey through it? I think we can trace at least a small portion of it to the coffee companies. The release of the fall coffee drinks has become a bit of a holiday in and of itself. Pumpkin spice lattes are obsessed upon and are associated with the approach of Halloween, but the moment Halloween is over, we’re on to peppermint and gingerbread coffee concoctions for Christmas. Thanksgiving has been factored out of the equation entirely. To be fair, the thought of a sweet potato pie latte or a sausage stuffing oatmilk chai don’t exactly get my taste buds tingling. So how is Thanksgiving supposed to compete?
Beyond the coffee situation, I’m afraid to say that Thanksgiving has some other problems. My oldest daughter just asked me last week which holiday is next. When I told her it was Thanksgiving, she said “That’s not a holiday. It’s just food!” She’s got a point. Most of our other holidays have music and movies that add to the atmosphere, but I would be hard-pressed to rattle off my favorite Thanksgiving movie or song. Christmas and Halloween, though? I mean, where do we begin? The amount of media dedicated to these two holidays is enough to launch their own radio and TV networks. Could we ever have Thanksgiving TV? Not a chance. People preparing turkey dinners on the Food Network is about all you’ve got. Plus, you can only replay A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving so many times.
Perhaps pumpkins and ghosts and Christmas trees and Santa Claus are just more inspirational muses than pilgrims and turkeys. There have to be a few iconic symbols that today’s pop singers could latch onto for the sake of turkey day. What about Plymouth Rock? It’s got the word rock right in it. Surely Dave Grohl and company could whip up three minutes of something we could sing along while we’re stuffing the turkey on Thanksgiving. What’s the problem here?
There are lots of things that people, especially kids, can get excited about regarding Christmas and Halloween. Let’s face it, drawing the classic “hand turkey” at school cannot compete with carving pumpkins and decorating trees. It’s not exactly the kind of thing that makes children too excited to sleep at night. Even the food can be a tough sell. No candy canes or candy corn, just candied yams. The mere thought of eating anything resembling green bean casserole is enough to make my daughters want to flip the dinner table like the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
When it comes to recognition, the odds are clearly stacked against Thanksgiving. For now, I’ll just have to enjoy the company of my loved ones, savor a good meal, and remain thankful that there is one day when I can pause to give thanks that there are 8 months left to plan our family Halloween costume.