“What happened to Thanksgiving?” one of my students asked me just before Turkey Day arrived. “It’s like we are fast-forwarding straight to Christmas.”

“I know,” responded a classmate. “My mother set up the tree last night!”

This year, I had to agree, it looks like we have finally succumbed to the evil-minded retailers who want us to “think Christmas” every time we shop.

No longer content with the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they urge us to over-consume earlier and earlier each fall. There are five weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and still retailers are not satisfied. They started sneaking in Christmas goods before Halloween.

This travesty happened in spite of the fact that Halloween itself has become a huge shopping excuse.

I was so upset that one of my favorite radio stations was playing Christmas music on the day before Thanksgiving that I turned it off and haven’t turned it back on since.

The real issue, though, the one that really makes our young people wonder “what happened to Thanksgiving” is the growing trend of stores opening on Thanksgiving.

Let me tell you, I was thankful this year that Maine law stipulates that large stores (based on square footage and number of employees) must be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

I was in one store that was advertising Thanksgiving hours, and I almost flipped out. I was ready to take my business elsewhere, which would have been quite inconvenient. The birthday of my husband, Paul, fell on Thanksgiving this year. I was buying him a present, and time was running out. Luckily, before I had to throw a hissy fit, I realized that the signs referred to the chain’s stores in other states.

I’m familiar with Maine law because I live near a grocery store. On the three major holidays when it is required to be closed, I am alternately intrigued, befuddled and saddened by the number of customers who come to its doors.

What? They forgot to buy a turkey?

Since I am busy celebrating the holiday, I don’t keep track of how many people try to buy groceries on these days. It would be interesting to know, however. All I can say is that every time I pass by an upstairs window, walk one of my dogs or step outside the yard, somebody is heading into the supermarket parking lot.

This is how well trained we are. We simply can’t believe there’s any reason for a store to be closed.

I like holidays to be different. Otherwise, what’s the point? I don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving. I want to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Though I haven’t shopped on Black Friday for years, I do understand the appeal. My mother, sister and I always used to hit a few stores the day after Thanksgiving. It was a tradition for us.

It disturbed me to hear a shopper on TV (in another state) say that she felt rather badly about running around the mall on Thanksgiving evening.

“So why the heck did you do it,” I yelled at the television. This is an issue I really get excited about.

There’s a word for people who mindlessly follow trends: sheeple. People, don’t be sheeple.

There was no chance I’d be out trolling for bargains at midnight on Nov. 23. I was snug in my bed, passed out on an excess of tryptophans. Besides, how great are these deals? I’d rather buy less than have to stand in line in the cold, deal with crowds and, perhaps, even risk my life. Over what — a game system marked down $25?

I gave up Black Friday shopping because my mother grew too old for the ordeal, and, eventually, passed away. That’s when I realized I didn’t really care about what I bought. It was the fun of getting up early and shopping with my family that I enjoyed.

We headed for the stores, though, only after a long, quiet Thanksgiving day had passed. That was a day to reconnect, to enjoy good food, to lounge around, to take brisk walks in the crisp fall air.

One year, my mother’s oven broke down and we transported all the food to Paul’s apartment (he was then my boyfriend) 15 miles away. Another year, we had surprise guests and a very full house.

My mother spent several Thanksgivings in Maine; I particularly remember the year when we went to see a Harry Potter movie in the afternoon. She was not impressed.

An especially memorable Thanksgiving occurred when a member of our extended family, a few sheets to the wind, bounced down on a dining room chair and splintered it. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

After such days, I was always ready to shop, to decorate, to enter the Christmas season with enthusiasm. Just not a minute before.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected]

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