published Friday, November 4th, 2011

Forgotten Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday that seems to get lost -- publicly at least -- in the transition from Halloween to Christmas, two of the more profitable holidays of the retail year. Don't believe it? Visit the just about any store. It's the first week of November and Christmas decorations are everywhere, but only a handful of Thanksgiving-themed items are available.

There's a reason for that. Even though it is not a gift-giving holiday, there's money to be made on Halloween. Sales for costumes, candy, home decorations, etc., are robust and trending up. Christmas, of course, is the retailers' blockbuster season. Gifts, decorations and cards, among other items, propel sales in what is the busiest time of the year. Indeed, the profits generated during the year-end holiday season often determine whether a merchant ends the year in the red or the black.

Thanksgiving can't match such retail powerhouses despite its evident popularity, because there is no tradition of gift-giving, costumes or significant decorating attached to it. And while about 44 million will take to the roads, rails and skies on Thanksgiving -- more Americans travel then than for any other holiday -- that does not mean a bulge in profits for the travel industry. Any increases are more moderate than significant.

Americans also embrace another Thanksgiving tradition. The traditional meal, historically one to commemorate a bountiful harvest at time when a poor crop could mean starvation and even death, is now often an exercise in excess. Millions and millions are spent on the feasts, but grocers and other food purveyors say that while they are glad to get the business, holiday sales aren't a great a profit-builder.

A lot of the money spent on turkeys, cranberries and other holiday choices, they say, is simply money that ordinarily would be spent on groceries purchased every week. So, Thanksgiving sales and profits at grocery stores might go up some, but not a lot.

What bothers many people, then, is that the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving is lost in the very visible and, some would say, mercenary rush to get to the holiday sales season once October ends. There's a remedy for that. One need not to spend lots of money to be thankful for nature's bounty or to give thanks for family and other blessings. That comes from the heart and is independent of the retail marketplace.

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