Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Have You Heard of the The Year of Two Thanksgivings?

    For some of us, one Thanksgiving day with the crush of relatives and stuffing of our faces is enough. Imagine if there were two Thanksgivings. Well, one year there was!

    To make a long story short (you can read the longer version here), in 1939 President Roosevelt was being pressured by some retailers to extend the Christmas shopping season in order to boost the economy. At the time, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November, and that year there were 5 Thursdays, making it particularly late in the month. So Roosevelt decided to move it back a week, from the 30th to the 24th in order to create a longer holiday shopping season (who knew that just some 70 years later the Christmas shopping season would extend back before Halloween! -- thank you K-mart!)

    Despite the objections from some calendar manufactures (who had already printed 1940 calendars, now with the wrong Thanksgiving date) and food distributors (who would have to scramble to get holiday food to stores a week early) the date was changed -- at least on the national level. But almost half of the state governors (most of whom were Republicans -- Roosevelt was a Democrat) refused to observe the new date and declared Thanksgiving would remain on the 30th. So for that year, all across the country, families celebrated Thanksgiving on two different days.

    Share this story with your youth.  Invite their reactions.  Ask: What do you think about the fact that they couldn't come to a mutual decision about when to give thanks? Does it surprise you that part of the debate was political?  What would it be like to have two Thanksgiving days? What if every day was Thanksgiving? How would that change the way we observe the holiday? How could we show gratitude to God every day? 

    This last question is the most important. Why not invite your youth to get into groups of 2 or 3, give them pen and paper and 2 minutes to generate as many ideas they can for showing gratitude to God on a regular, ordinary day (at home, at school, with friends and family, in public). Have groups share and compare their ideas. Finally, compile the lists and send them out to your youth, challenging them to see how many acts of gratitude they can make part of their daily routines.