Don't let Thanksgiving get crowded out by 'Christmas creep'

Americans know how to end the year right. As the days get shorter and the weather colder, we celebrate the Big Three — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, each with its own food, colors and emotions.

Which is why I was a little disturbed when I went to the mall about a week after Halloween. Already, a number of stores had replaced all that spooky ornamentation with Christmas decorations.

I’m not opposed to capitalizing a bit on the Yuletide spirit — retail is tough and this is their busiest time of the year. But in the rush to celebrate Christmas, were they letting something wonderful slip through the cracks?

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. A chance to see family and friends, to eat a fine meal, and to give thanks.

Abraham Lincoln made it an official holiday in 1863, even as the country was tearing itself apart — something worth remembering for those who don’t feel grateful because they’re so unhappy with our political leadership.

It’s a secular holiday, but has religious roots, and many choose it as a time to acknowledge the creator. It’s a national holiday, but also a holiday that is shared (on different dates) by countries around the world.

What it is not is a way station on the path to Christmas.

It’s been celebrated in the U.S. since before we were a nation. Abraham Lincoln made it an official holiday in 1863, even as the country was tearing itself apart — something worth remembering for those who don’t feel grateful because they’re so unhappy with our political leadership.

Is the country less invested in Thanksgiving than it used to be? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but there has been, for some time now, and undercurrent of dissatisfaction. It seems to come from the same motivation that has undermined, and in some places, done away with, Columbus Day.

For instance, one group, United American Indians of New England, holds a “National Day of Mourning” every Thanksgiving. As they put it, “Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.”

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, an event is held each year on Alcatraz Island known as “Unthanksgiving Day” to commemorate the losses indigenous people have suffered due to European settlers.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would hope Americans can all come together on this holiday. While we should never shy away from acknowledging wrongs that have been done, on Thanksgiving we should try to put aside bitterness.

It can be a time to focus on and be grateful for the good things we do have. Of course, if you want to feel unhappy, or just cranky, that’s your right. But it’s odd – sometimes the mere act of stopping to express gratitude can make you grateful for the things you otherwise take for granted.

In any case, I wish the stores that can’t wait for the Christmas shopping season would hold their horses. I’d rather spend most of November concentrating on how much we have to be thankful for.

And the day after Thanksgiving, then we can start playing the carols and putting up all the red and green.

Steve Kurtz is a producer for the Fox News Channel, and author of "Steve’s America (the perfect gift for people named Steve)".