Tuesday, November 21, 2023

It’s the Most Hectic Time of the Year

This is a very hectic week. Thanksgiving is on Thursday, November 23rd, which means this is the busiest travel week of the entire year. If there is anything more soul-crushing than the ordeal of modern air travel, it is the ordeal of modern air travel during Thanksgiving week. 

Most years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the first Sunday of Advent. Ah yes, good ol’ Advent. The Church has been trying for years to convince people — to no avail — that we should enjoy this wonderful season of prayerful anticipation that comes before the official Christmas season.
Unfortunately, no one is listening. Our culture kicks off the Christmas season in earnest the moment Thanksgiving dinner is finished or when it’s halftime during the Detroit Lions football game on TV, whichever comes first. This is different compared to the corporate retail industry, which kicks off the Christmas season in earnest on September 20th — at least based on what I saw filling the shelves at Walmart two months ago. Once Thanksgiving Day is about half over, the nonstop ho-ho-ho juggernaut steamrolls through the following four-plus weeks until everyone collapses with exhaustion on December 25th.

 There is an interesting situation this year. Thanksgiving comes very early — the 23rd of November. Therefore, the Sunday following Thanksgiving is not the first Sunday of Advent, which instead occurs this year on December 3rd. The Sunday right after Thanksgiving is the final Sunday on the Church calendar: the Feast of Christ the King.

So, we have a wonderful opportunity this year. We can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday the way it was originally intended, that is, by giving thanks. (You would think the name kind of gives it away, but far too many people have no clue.)

As a quick refresher course: In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26 of that year as a national day of thanksgiving to recognize the role of providence in creating the new United States and the new federal Constitution. (By the way, George’s use of the word “providence” referred to the care and guidance provided by Almighty God, not the capital of Rhode Island.)
Then, in 1863, as the Civil War raged on, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November. Lincoln’s proclamation urged the nation to heal its wounds and restore "peace, harmony, tranquility and Union." 

This might come as a shock to those folks who think the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday is eating until you can’t move, watching football on TV, and making a list for your Black Friday shopping excursion that begins before sunrise the following day.

Nope, the meaning of Thanksgiving is to give thanks, specifically to God Almighty for all that He does to provide for us. I admit that’s not quite as exciting as installing 4 billion watts of holiday lighting in your yard or getting into a fistfight at the mall. But thanking God has never been really flashy — it’s simply the right thing to do.

If we could enjoy Thanksgiving this year with a heart of gratitude, understanding that Christmas is more than a month away, it could really improve our peace of mind. Then if we go to Mass on Sunday and worship Christ the King, understanding that Advent is still a week away, we’ll have our hearts in the right place.
And maybe, just maybe, a few people next week might realize that Advent is not synonymous with Christmas and is instead its own special Liturgical season. If that actually happened—  Well, I admit it sounds kind of preposterous nowadays. But never say never. After all, we’re heading into the season of miracles. With God, all things are possible!

I hope you have a great and grateful Thanksgiving holiday. Have a holy season of Advent, too. Then have a wonderful Chris—  No wait, I’m not even gonna say it. It’s way too early! 


  1. I'm confused. Way back in the 60's when I was a catholic the first Sunday of advent WAS the start of the Christmas season. We took out our advent wreath, candles and advent calendar. The season began then and ended on Jan 6th when the 3 kings showed up on their camels with gifts in their pack for baby Jesus. You can't have the Christmas season without advent, it's part OF it.
    Ruth O'Keefe
    Ruth O'Keefe

  2. Nope, it doesn't come as a shock to anybody that Thanksgiving is for being grateful. People are not stupid. But for many people this does not involve god. Your way of doing something is not the only way.

    Ruth O'Keefe

  3. I don't think I've ever sat down at a Thanksgiving table where, at some point, the conversation did not turn to what everyone is thankful for that year
    Ruth O'Keefe