To everything there is a season” sang the rock group known as “The Byrds” in 1965. They borrowed liberally from an earlier song by Pete Seeger, who took it from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Apparently not. The “season” of Thanksgiving has been eclipsed by advertisers who are desperate in this recession to boost holiday sales long before most people have finished (or even started) eating turkey.

In recent years we have seen the first wave of the advertising onslaught around Halloween. And that has been mostly a few trees popping -up in department stores. But this year, the line between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been bulldozed. Ads for 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. sales on “Black Friday” and even 10 p.m. sales on Thanksgiving evening are the norm. And like virginity that has been violated, it will be impossible to re-draw the lines.

I think part of this has to do with the secularization of culture. Thanksgiving used to mean the expression of gratitude to God for His many blessings. Now, in our PC age when God’s name can only be invoked when one is cursing, we give thanks “to whom it may concern” for fear of offending the unbeliever. This emphasis on self and material things has not produced the advertised results.

A survey by the Consumer Electronics Association of what people want most for Christmas found “Peace/Happiness” at the top of the list. That is followed by the usual list of “stuff,” such as computers, cars and video games. But if "stuff" made us happy, wouldn’t we be happier than ever? We have more stuff, but seem less satisfied with everything, from our economy to our politicians.

Perhaps we can learn something from all this. Maybe an “attitude of gratitude” to God for the essentials in life will produce more of what we truly need and less of what we think we want. -- Don’t look for any ads about that because at Thanksgiving, as at other seasons, happiness is a "spiritual condition." The early Christmas ads you are seeing on TV and in newspapers are selling products that can never fill that void in all of us.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News contributor.