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Family

Getting past Halloween and into Thanksgiving

Posted October 26, 2016

The more we can teach our children about gratitude, both by our example and by our emphasis, the happier adults they will grow up to be. (Deseret Photo)

Halloween is often a favorite holiday among children, but in our minds, it is something to get past so we can get on with what we consider the best holiday of all: Thanksgiving. Halloween is a time to dress up as something you are not; Thanksgiving is a time to think about and be grateful for what you are.

According to the National Park Service website, it has been more than 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln established an annual, national observance of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

But have you ever thought about the interesting sequence of our four year-ending holidays?

Packed into the final three months of the year, we have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

As each year begins to wind down, we enter winter via a strange holiday that celebrates fear and ghoulishness and allows us to escape ourselves with masks and costumes. Next, we get the sweet pause of a long football and feasting weekend to remember our heritage and our blessings. Then, if we can lift above the commercialization of it all, we honor the birth of Christ and the peace and goodwill of men. Finally, we party out the old year and make resolutions for the new.

Another way to look at this sequence is that Thanksgiving lifts us from Halloween to Christmas, and that gratitude and acknowledgment of God sets us up to look optimistically and spiritually toward the new year.

We love to view Thanksgiving as the transition, the transformer and the transfer from the stress and exhaustion of the first 11 months and from the darkness of Halloween to the peace and light of Christmas and the fresh start of another year.

Especially for those who live in four-season climates, Thanksgiving is wonderfully placed. As late autumn begins to yield to winter, it seems to set the stage for a more reflective outlook as we mentally inventory our blessings and set them up as a bulwark against the coming snow and cold. Like walking through dry, fragrant piles of fallen autumn leaves, we can rustle our souls and summon a greater awareness of beauty and a healthier perspective that connects past and future blessings.

But sadly, in our broader society, Thanksgiving is the holiday that is getting lost. It is becoming marginalized into a convenient long weekend that gives us a head start on our holiday shopping. Turkeys and Pilgrims don’t even see the light of day as merchandisers pull down the witches and monsters on the same morning they put up Santas, trees and stockings, without even a pause for reflection and receiving.

Thanksgiving has been called the American holiday. It was born out of gratitude in times of deep adversity but boundless opportunity.

The hardships of the hardy souls we call Pilgrims were almost unimaginable, yet the boundless thanks they felt for their newfound freedom and the opportunity and options of a new land — along with gratitude for having made it across the ocean — prompted them to set aside a special day of thanksgiving.

Today, despite blessings beyond what the Pilgrims could imagine, we are losing the vital, life-sustaining emotion of gratitude. Our tendency to take things for granted is shocking.

As the Thanksgiving holiday itself is being obliterated — squeezed down to nothing by the ghouls of Halloween on one side and the ever-earlier commercial interest of Christmas on the other — we each need to make a personal commitment to gratitude.

And the more we can teach our children about gratitude, both by our example and by our emphasis, the happier adults they will grow up to be.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak worldwide on family issues. Their new books are “The Thankful Heart” and “Life in Full.” See valuesparenting.com or eyrealm.com

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