Take Back Thanksgiving: a 7-Step Plan for Reclaiming the Holiday

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Walk the seasonal aisle of any supermarket or drugstore. The halls are decked with lights and tinsel. The shelves are heavy with chocolate-covered marshmallow Santas. Outside it feels like autumn, but inside it has been Christmas for a month. The official start of the holiday season may be this weekend, but the holidays actually start on November 1st at precisely 12:01 am, when the Halloween candy and costumes instantly vanish from the nation's retail stores—possibly into a black hole—replaced by reindeer and mistletoe.

At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, whatever happened to Thanksgiving? As Halloween and Christmas have grown bigger every year, Thanksgiving has been getting squeezed out. The time has come for Americans to demand something better. Like when Justin Timberlake brought sexy back—if by sexy you mean "sweater vests"—we need to bring back Thanksgiving. What follows is a modest proposal for reinventing the holiday, and so restoring it to its rightful place at the heart of American life.

1.) Exploit the holiday First, clearly, the country must do a better job of exploiting the holiday, particularly in terms of merchandising. Frankly, it's disappointing to see the nation's purveyors of cheap, pointless crap—usually so industrious—missing such a fine opportunity to sell us stuff we don't need and can't afford. Where, one wonders, are the shelves full of Plymouth Rock candy? Where are the sexy Pilgrim costumes? Where are the strings of festive holiday lights shaped like little roast turkeys? What about toy muskets that shoot jelly beans for the kids? It is simply inexcusable that American families are depriving their children the hours of potential joy that could come from owning a Miles Standish action figure or a stuffed Squanto doll that lights up says "Happy Thanksgiving!" when you squeeze it.

2.) Fix Black Friday Ostensibly the day when retailers go into black ink for the year, the Biggest Shopping Day of the Season has evolved from a mildly amusing human interest story to a macabre spectacle of mob violence and schadenfreude. Each year, the nation eagerly watches—feigning concern, but secretly enjoying the sense of superiority we get from watching deal-crazed shoppers trample each other in a desperate quest for discount video games. At this point, we might as well just arm Black Friday shoppers with knives, chains and bats, let Darwin decide the rest, and call it reality TV.

3.) Stop saying "Turkey Day" This is absolutely non-negotiable. Anyone using the phrase "Turkey Day" to describe this holiday must be executed on the spot, shot without benefit of trial. Or a blindfold. Also, their homes should be burned to ashes, the land underneath plowed, salted and cursed by priests. Any children can be spared, but must undergo sterilization. Granted, this seems harsh. But there's simply no way around it. People who habitually call Thanksgiving "Turkey Day" are the worst people on earth.

4.) Fix football Watching the Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving is the duty of every good American. It would be nice, however, if the team would spice it up by winning more than once a decade. With this year's opponent the New England Patriots and their quarterback, Justin Bieber, a Motown victory seems about as likely as Middle East peace. That's why we urge Congress to pass legislation making it a federal crime for any team to beat the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. It's always nice when Dallas loses on Thanksgiving, of course—shout out to Leon Lett! But the Cowboys have been doing such a good job of losing lately that government intervention doesn't seem necessary.

5.) Write some Thanksgiving-specific songs The Great American Songbook includes approximately 430,000 songs about Christmas. Halloween has its own soundtrack. Thanksgiving, possibly because nothing rhymes with tryptophan, has precisely two tunes worth hearing: Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song" and Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant Masacree." That needs to change. Step it up, creative types. Where's that Warrant remake using "pumpkin" in the place of "Cherry Pie"?

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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