Thursday, November 27, 2014


I had forgotten about this holiday until my friend Sam asked what my plans were... OOPS! 

And then, I read that the Chinese Government is thinking about establishing a holiday similar to Thanksgiving in America because people are not taking time out to be thankful. 

I polled my students: do they think it is a good idea to have a declared holiday to express thanks?

YES! they shouted in unison. When I asked why, they said they wanted to eat special foods. They had never tasted turkey and drooled over the possibility. I think they're missing the mark, and I think the Chinese government, for all its good intentions, is missing it too. 

While it is true that traditional (American) Thanksgiving means to give thanks for life's bounty, these days, people see it as an invitation to gluttony, or as the precursor to shopping. Black Friday now overshadows Thanksgiving in America, with people camping outside of stores for early bargains. Camping out has become a tradition for some and it is great advertising for the store, but over the years that has gotten to be a dangerous proposition. During this time, fights break out, people get shot and some have been trampled to death in the stampede to get into the store first. Normally tame citizens will punch each other out over the few bargain items available during these special, early morning promotions.

And when I say 'early morning', I'm talking about 5 and 6AM.  

And it is getting worse. Stores like Wal-mart and Target propose to open on Thanksgiving evening, around 8PM, perhaps figuring most people will have finished their meal and are ready to shop. Every year the stores open earlier and earlier. The American people are starting to protest. That's a good thing: they don't want what is left of the traditional holiday to be overrun by commercialism.  

China has caught Black Friday's shopping fever. Hopefully minus the stampeding and fighting. Shopping is great for the economy and probably a lot of fun... but is this how Chinese government intended their thanksgiving holiday to be? I don't think so. 

Here's the thing: you cannot legislate morality or ethics. Just like the laws of filial piety China wanted to pass a year or so back demanding that the young visit their elders, demanding gratitude is an oxymoron. Would someone be truly grateful if they were forced to be? 

Would China's young visit their elders if they were forced to?  

Do we need a special day to be thankful? Shouldn't we be grateful of our bounty every day?

That is what I told my students. They should take time today to express their thanks to everyone in their life who has earned it. They should call their parents, their friends... everyone who matters to them, and tell them how grateful they are that such a person graces their lives. Maybe they could take a minute or two to think of all the things in their life and in the world that are good and right. I think I'll do the same.

I'm so grateful for my loving, supportive family. I'm grateful for my wonderful friends, for living my dream and for having a comfortable life. I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach and help others. I'm grateful to be a part of the ChinaDaily blogging community, and I'm so grateful to write to you. 

It seems as though some of my students have taken me to heart: my phone and QQ (chat software) have been pinging incoming messages all afternoon. I'll leave you to your thoughts and answer them. 

Wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

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