The national celebration of Thanksgiving is older than the United States, starting with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, whose regular practice was to give thanks. The first Thanksgiving, in fact, was reported to have lasted three days.Nearly 400 years later, it seems we are lucky if we get one day, judging by retailers’ increasing desire to get as much business as they can, as soon as they can — abetted, of course, by consumers’ desire to get as much as they can, as soon as they can, and as cheaply (they think) as they can. This year, several major retail outlets say they will remain open on Thanksgiving Day — taking their workers away from their family celebrations — so the Christmas shopping season can begin a few hours earlier. This phenomenon — including shoppers enjoying their turkey dinner camped out in line outside the store of their choice — has not happened overnight. As consumerism has increased and the economy has floundered, early morning “bargains” the day after Thanksgiving have gained popularity. I admit some complicity here. A number of years ago, all the women of the family lined up outside the local mall at 6 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving to catch a bargain. And the last two years, I’ve run down to Home Depot the early Friday morning to snap up poinsettias for a dollar. But when our local Outlet Mall began opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, we drew the line. For many, Thanksgiving celebrations are about families, football and food (not always in that order, given that the television goes on early in the day to watch games until bedtime, or so it seems). Yet amid touchdowns and turkey, Thanksgiving carries with it a strong sense of spiritual awareness; we gather as friends and family to thank God for all we have, both in the best of times and in the more difficult times.So what do we do amidst Christmas carols blaring forth from stores and malls when Thanksgiving is still weeks away, and the lure of a bargain tempts us to “just run out for a few minutes to pick up something” on Thanksgiving Day? If the shops are empty, will stores repeat their early opening strategy? That may be wishful thinking, since there will always be folks who choose to shop. In the end, it is up to each of us to determine how we will respond to actions beyond our control. And whether not participating in Thanksgiving Day shopping affects a change in retailers’ policies is secondary to the message we send to our family members about our priorities.When all is said and done, Thanksgiving remains an opportunity to join with others across the nation in gratitude to God — and that in itself is cause for celebration! Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community and regional director for Ignatian Volunteer Corps Los Angeles. Her e-mail address is [email protected].