Fly your flag on Thanksgiving — it’s one of about a score of dates Congress designated specially to fly the flag, in the U.S. flag code.
Americans load up this particular holiday with significance, often for no particular reason. As a holiday, it is really rather uniquely American. There were feasts of thanksgiving from time to time throughout recorded history, but most often they were one-shot affairs, after a particular event.
In America, Americans eagerly seized on the idea of one day set aside “to give thanks,” both with the religious overtones some wanted to see, and with the commercial overtones others wanted, especially during the Great Depression. In our 238th year since the Declaration of Independence, the 225th year since the Constitution was enacted, we come to Thanksgiving as a major period of travel to old family homesteads, to Thanksgiving as a period of genuine thanks to American troops fighting in foreign lands half a world away, and as a commercial celebration that sucks the sobriety and spirituality out of all but the most dedicated of profiteers, or bargain hunters.
Thanksgiving often stumbled into controversy. George Washington issued proclamations calling for a day of thanks, but struck out all references to Christianity. Some president’s issued similar proclamations up to the Civil War, When Abraham Lincoln used the holiday as a time to remind Americans that they had a lot to be thankful for, partly as a means to keep Americans focused on the war to be won, and keep supporting troops in the field. During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt juggled dates for Thanksgiving, moving it earlier in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season, hoping to stimulate sales, and thereby push America further out of the Depression.
In 2001 George W. Bush urged Americans to go shopping so terrorists would know America was not defeated by the attack on the World Trade Center, knowing that a stimulus to the economy would help garner support for other policies.
2012 saw controversy over Big Box stores and other major, national retailers pushing their post- Thanksgiving, Christmas sales, into Thanksgiving day itself. Is this fair to employees? Is this too much emphasis on purchasing, and too little emphasis on family and giving thanks?
In 2014, we have the same arguments about Big Box stores pushing “Black Friday” into the holiday, and even more arguments about Christmas creep reducing the importance of Thanksgiving to Americans.
You can be sure of one thing: It’s probably safe to fly your American flag on Thanksgiving, as Congress suggested. It won’t make your turkey more moist or your pumpkin pie taste any better. It won’t boost your sales, if you’re a retailer, nor find you a bargain, if you’re a shopper.
If you have the flag, it costs nothing. Flying the flag makes no particular religious statement, supports no particular political party, supports no one’s favorite football team. Flying the flag earns you nothing, usually.
But as a free act of patriotism, support for our nation, and our troops, and a demonstration that even after a divisive election, we’re all one nation, it’s a pretty good deal.
Fly your flag today.
- US hits the road for Thanksgiving (bbc.co.uk)
- Millions hit the road in Thanksgiving travel rush (nbcnews.com)
- Obama Thanksgiving Proclamation 2012 (FULL TEXT) (odewire.com)
- Thanksgiving by the numbers (cnn.com)