Friday, 23 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! but what about the UK?

Millions of Americans are getting over their Thanksgiving feasts right now, from turkey legs to mashed potatoes (Roast Potatoes not so popular!), many gathered round their dining tables yesterday to commemorate the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts following a good harvest.

Its the moment of the year when families can recognise their national history, and many do, but also an opportunity to return home to their parents. America is the home of immigrants and many people's work practices take them away from their childhood homes. Equally, its one of the few holidays which is now widely recognised as secular within the western world, a rarity in itself.

All of this has got me thinking, aren't we missing a trick here? In the UK we have our own Harvest Festival which derives from a Pagan festival celebrating good harvests and is held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon. For me, the only contact I've ever had with the Harvest Festival is going to church with my primary school class, clutching the tins and fruit I'd bro
ught from home and sitting through a drafty service. Couldn't we do more? Shouldn't we make it a national bank holiday?

I think we should! It would be one of yet a few opportunities within the year for families and friends to truly come together and enjoy one another's company. Likewise, it would be a perfect education tool for many adults and children a like who simply don't grasp where their food comes from and for whom the countryside is merely an enigma you watch John Craven and the cast of Emmerdale standing in the middle of!
A typical Harvest Festival display
Don't worry though, I hear your screams of "not another bank holiday" as many businessmen and women would rightly decry. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June is widely agreed to have taken 0.5 percentage points off Q2 GDP, in a period of economic turmoil where we can't spare losses like that.

However, the US now celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, a change thanks to President
Franklin D. Roosevelt. Why did he opt for a change in 1941? Due to pressures from American retailers who wanted more shopping days before Christmas and now the following Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday; the day the vast majority of the retail sector's books go back into the black! In 2011, shoppers spent an estimated $52 billion on Black Friday which is seen as the start of the shopping season.

The yearly mad dash, right for us too?
Many US retailers in the UK like Apple and Amazon already try their best to bring Black Friday over to this side of the pond. However, I think having a Harvest Festival Day on the fourth Thursday of November would make it culturally easier to see the real benefits of Black Friday here in the UK. There were real fears for the retail sector in the UK at the start of the year but the Olympics seemed to have stemmed the bleed so far, wouldn't an economic boost like Black Friday, a proper rush to the shops help things even more?

I think it's time to take our tins, open them up for a good feast and get prepared for an annual day of shopping, one that will give the green light to those individuals and businesses whose savings are waiting for that confidence booster. Do you think we should follow America?

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