Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ahead of Our Time

The other day, I was shopping in Sports Authority, when I noticed I was humming along to a Christmas song. I immediately stopped. Christmas?! For Pete’s sake, we were over two weeks away from Thanksgiving, much less Christmas! Annoyed, I located a salesperson and said, “You are playing Christmas music?” The young man replied apologetically, “Yes, I’m afraid we are.” “That’s just wrong!” I exclaimed. He said, “I know it, and I have to listen to it all day long.” Poor fella.

On the drive back from West Texas, I noticed that many towns were already displaying their Christmas decorations and several houses were donning their Christmas lights. Now as far back as I can remember, you just didn’t put up Christmas decorations and lights until after Thanksgiving. Something just isn’t right here.

I think there’s a conspiracy going on. After the financial meltdown in September, Best Buy Co. said that "seismic" changes in consumer behavior have created "the most difficult climate" it has ever seen. JC Penney reported weak third quarter earnings and has lowered its fourth quarter earnings estimate. Starbucks profits are less than half of what they earned in 2007. The coffee giant has been hit hard by the worst economic downturn in nearly a generation as consumers cling to their dollars even more tightly than analysts had expected. And, who can blame them?

I love Starbucks hot chocolate, and they recently came out with their Signature Hot Chocolate, which is a distinctly rich, European-style hot chocolate made with Starbucks’ blend of four different cocoas. But, at $4.00 a pop, including tax, for a large cup of hot chocolate, I could go broke. Heck, I am broke! So, I, like many other consumers, have had to cut back on this fancy luxury.

What does all this mean? It means we are beginning to hear Christmas music in all the department stores much earlier than before. Even my bank has decorated the lobby with its Christmas tree and ornaments. The lobby smells like pumpkin spice and Christmas carols are piped in through the sound system. Retailers are conspiring to influence consumers to part with our hard-earned dollars by getting us in the holiday shopping mood earlier this year.

Shame on them! I know times are tough, but Thanksgiving is a very important holiday and should not be upstaged by Christmas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – a time to reflect on the blessings I have received throughout the year and a time when my entire, extended family gathers together at the Ranch. My parents, son, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brother, nieces, nephews and more all join together for a delicious meal and fellowship.

The food at Thanksgiving on the Double M Ranch is not to be missed! Mom always makes the turkey and her infamous dressing, topped with a big ladle of giblet gravy. Aunt Mary Lou brings ham and rolls. Cousin Laketha always cooks her delicious sweet potatoes, and I like to make a couple of pies. Since the Thanksgiving meal is usually not eaten until mid-afternoon, my sister, Cameron, always provides a salmon loaf as an appetizer. There are mashed potatoes, cream peas, jello salad (my favorite) and a green salad. Sometimes, someone will bring asparagus, tamales, chocolate sheet cake or apricot half-moon pies. Thanksgiving at the Ranch is truly a feast of plenty. Nobody leaves hungry.

After the meal, the menfolk usually watch the Dallas Cowboys’ football game, while the children play softball outside. Meanwhile, the women take turns cleaning the kitchen, cackling and telling funny stories. By late afternoon, the relatives begin to disperse. At last, it’s naptime on the Double M Ranch.

I hope you and your family will relish in the blessings of this Thanksgiving and focus on the family. Don’t let the cheap, glitzy Christmas gimmicks influence you at the store this year. Take a stand, and keep your Christmas dollars in your pocket until after Thanksgiving!

Be Thankful, Y’all!

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