Everyone wants to have the kind of family holiday that lingers as a warm memory long after the gathering is over.
I just came away from a Thanksgiving celebration that will long remain in my heart as a special family time.
Thanksgiving was always "my holiday." It was my time to host my extended family and I reveled in every bit of the holiday. I loved making the biggest turkey I could find and cooking for a crowd.
Most of all, I loved the feeling of love and warmth I felt as we all gathered around our Thanksgiving table.
After I moved to Florida, I forfeited the chance to have everyone gather at my house for Thanksgiving. I live too far away from family members and plane fares during the holiday season are out of sight.
That means I spent the past five years making do with "orphan" Thanksgiving celebrations that had none of the old-fashioned traditions I cherish.
This year, my daughter Andrea announced she and her husband were flying with their three children to spend Thanksgiving with David and me. It was a gift of presence that can't be topped.
I told my grandkids if I said thank you for all of our blessings, the turkey would turn cold long before I finished. They understood.
I think we all relished our time together.
Although we are all a family of "doers" who thrive on physical activity, Thanksgiving was devoted only to the simple pleasure of being together.
After our traditional Thanksgiving feast, we continued our celebration in an old-fashioned way– we went for a family stroll along the waterfront while we chatted with each other.
There was no football, no rushing off to be with friends, no shopping. It was just the joy of being with family.
I have longed believed Thanksgiving is a rewarding time of year because it demands nothing of us except a grateful heart.
Wanting to keep Thanksgiving pure and free from commercialism, I have steadfastly refused to get caught up in the shopping stampede called Black Friday. I have always refused to even think about Christmas gift buying until December.
But this year, I violated my principles as Dave and I shopped very early in the morning on Black Friday.
I'm not quite sure how it happened but somehow, in the process of walking through Wal-Mart to get to the grocery aisles, we passed through the television section where my husband stopped to exclaim over the prices.
"This TV is at least a hundred dollars cheaper than I've ever seen it," he said. We decided it would make good financial sense to buy the TV during all the Black Friday sales.
See that – we got sucked in, trudging from store to store just like all the other shoppers looking for bargains.
Before my family was even awake, we had the new TV in the house.
Sure, we saved money. But we lost something important, too. We lost the one holiday that wasn't commercialized.
This year, merchants extended Black Friday sales to start on Thanksgiving Day itself, making it a two-day event. The result was bigger profits than ever before as people took advantage of a day off from work to shop for bargains.
What most of us fail to understand is that we lost the one holiday out of the year reserved for family and relaxation. Now, it's just another time for a shopping marathon.
My friends tell me they love it. "It's fun to rise to the challenge of getting the best bargains on Black Friday," said one of my best friends.
It's not Black Friday shopping that bothers me. It's the fact that the shopping marathon has crept into Thanksgiving Day itself, taking away from what was once something special.
One friend strongly disagrees. "We sit around too long on Thanksgiving," she said. "I'm happy with starting Black Friday on Thursday."
But I feel I am guilty of "selling out," trading my long held values for saving a few bucks. I tell myself it's just for this year alone because we "needed" a new TV.
But I know all the forecasters are right when they say our traditional Thanksgiving as we once knew it will be replaced with a two-day shopping marathon.
Looking back at past Thanksgiving Day celebrations, I fondly recall holidays as warm and wonderful as I had this year. My extended family members traveled from near and far to be together for Thanksgiving.
There were so many of us, some ended up with sleeping bags on the floor. It didn't matter because what we valued was being together as a family. Camping on the floor was part of the fun.
No one left early to shop. We thought there was plenty of time to shop after our two-day Thanksgiving gathering.
Will that simple Thanksgiving holiday become a thing of the past? Or, is it already gone?
You tell me.
Have you seen a change in your own Thanksgiving celebration?