Instead of Christmas Cards, Try Thanksgiving Messages

Celebrate the spirit of the community holiday by reconnecting with old friends.

It is almost unsettling what a Bears win does for my mood. I swear my morning coffee tastes better after Monday night.

There is a lot of topical news I could write about this week. Sexual molestation and misconduct have been at the forefront of the national spotlight. In both the controversy at Penn State concerning top administrators accused of failing to report sexual molestation charges to the authorities, and in the ever-growing list of women claiming to have been harassed or assaulted by one-time presidential hopeful Herman Cain. And yes, I am assuming that by the time this makes press Cain’s campaign will be D.O.A. Which, I mean come on. Is anyone upset that the Godfather pizza guy won’t get a chance to be our next President? I’m for Malnati 2012.

I could write about the unreasonable amount of attention paid to the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted Monday of involuntary manslaughter following the 2009 death of pop sensation (and accused child-molester) Michael Jackson. I found it a tad disturbing to watch throngs of onlookers dressed as Jackson celebrate as the verdict was announced outside an LA courtroom. What were they celebrating? No one accused Murray of ever intentionally killing their idol. The verdict did nothing to strengthen Jackson’s legacy. All it did is sent a man to prison for what a jury of his peers determined was an avoidable accident. Where’s the cause for celebration there?

But I don’t really feel like writing about any of that. Like I said, I am in a rather sunny mood, and I aim to keep it that way. With that in mind, I turn my attention to an event rapidly approaching. In fact, many would argue that this event is already upon us. The event: the 2011 holiday season. Even saying it out loud sends a nervous tingle up my spine. I’m not a Scrooge, I’m really not. It’s just that Hanukkah is scheduled for December 20th this year and Christmas is still set for the 25th. I’m still trying to finish off my dumpster brownies from Halloween, so all these snow-covered holiday gift-giving commercials can kiss my grits.

I think one of the primary reasons I am reluctant to prematurely jump-start the holiday season is my affinity for Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. That might have to do with my love of eating or all day NFL football or the undeniable primal thrill of sitting your clan around the carved carcass of a lesser species -- all good things in my opinion. But the real deal sealer has to be the strong emphasis on community gathering, the shared joy of sharing joy. It’s a remarkably underrated concept.

I consider Thanksgiving to be a community holiday. Often times this means a family dinner. But for those unable to be with family, or who chose to celebrate the holiday with friends, the spirit of the holiday is much broader in scope. It is not a revelation to say that the meaning of the holiday is to be thankful for our blessings. As much as I love food and football, the thing I’ve got going for me is the abundance of amazing people I have known in my life.

This year I have started something that I hope to make a tradition. In the spirit of the holiday, I have been attempting to resurrect the lost art of correspondence. In this age of Facebook messages and e-mail on your iPhone where the entire world is accessible through cell phone towers, it seems silly to me that we would ever lose touch with the people we care about.

It is common practice to put off writing letters to friends, neighbors and family until closer to Christmas. The family Christmas card is a staple of the holiday season for many families, but I don’t consider it correspondence. You don’t really expect to initiate a conversation with someone by sending out a postcard with an impersonal season’s greetings and a picture of the family all wearing matching sweaters.

For my Thanksgiving messages, I am attempting to express my appreciation to people in my life I no longer have the opportunity to interact with on a daily or weekly basis. It wasn’t that long ago I could walk down the hall of my college dorm and hang out with all of my friends at once. Now we are scattered all over the country. Some are in grad school, some are working and some have even started families of their own. All I am looking to do is reach out and tell them all that I miss them, that I am thinking of them and that I would like to know what they have been up to as of late.

So far the response has been positive. I have heard back from several different folks and I hope to make our correspondence a more regular occurrence. I encourage anyone reading this who has thought I wonder what so-&-so is up to nowadays? to go and write your own Thanksgiving letters. Or just pick up the phone.

The spirit of the holiday is sharing your appreciation for life with those who make it worth living. That and turkey, and pie and football.

Here’s to reconnecting with old friends,


James Stoker

PS: I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of Andy Rooney. As a writer who doesn’t write about anything in particular, I see Rooney as the original trailblazer for columnists in American culture. He was a grizzled old man who was bothered by lots of things and didn’t shy away from griping about it. For that, he was a personal hero of mine. In his honor I silence my pocket watch.


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