As a kid, I HATED Thanksgiving because I was a very picky eater and my uncle Les always gave me endless grief about it, shaming me at the table in front of everyone. He told all these racist jokes and all in all it was a terrible depressing affair - and my mother, who was a dear sweet loving woman and was the biggest influence of all on my writing, was just an outright LOUSY cook.
When I was married to my first wife (Barb) who had a big family, I HATED Thanksgiving with a passion. I didn't get to spend it with my folks, but had to go to the in-laws. The food there sucked (I once openly referred to their dinner rolls as "hockey pucks" - yeah, imagine me with no tact, LOL) and the relatives and I never got along as they opposed our getting married in the first place. It was a day filled with stress and no payoff.
When I got divorced and my folks died, I spent Thanksgiving alone - that was fun.....NOT! :-(
I dated a woman from 1990-1993 who had a big immediate family (3 brothers, 2 sisters) and their's was the first family I ever saw who ALL GOT ALONG on holidays and I enjoyed myself both on Thanksgiving and Christmas with them. They welcomed me from the first time and it was a relatively relaxing time.
Kathryn and I are both from small immediate families...her brother lives in Arizona and I've been estranged from my sister for over 5 years, so Thanksgiving is just the two of us and Mamie, our lab mix. We have a traditional Turkey dinner but don't go overboard, making just a small breast, not the whole bird, and we feast on it for week. We just hang out, watch football (Kathryn loves it), build a fire in the afternoon and watch some movies in the evening after dinner. It's a low-key enjoyable affair, but it would be great to have another one or two couples join us....however, everyone else we know has familial obligations.
I actually think, in theory, Thanksgiving is a great day for family or friend get-togethers, but it's usually ruined by family dynamics or dysfunction or the stress of travel if you are separated by distance. I don't think it's overly commercialized...at least when compared to Christmas. But I'm old-fashioned and my "perfect" Thanksgiving would be right out of Currier and Ives (or, a more timely image would be a Terry Redlin painting).
As for Black Friday, well, that's the free market economy, I guess. I don't feel one way or the other about it. If people want to be at stores at 5 am, fine with me. After all, plenty of "normal" folks thought I was weird for lining up at 10:30 pm to get tickets for the midnight opening of Return of the King - a movie that ran until well after 3 am!!! The worst part of the holiday shopping thing is how competitive it can get in families. That's no longer an issue with Kathryn and I, but when I was married to Barb, the competition between family members to spend the most and buy the best gifts was sickening.
Finally, a sincere Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here on the Forum. If you travel, be safe. If you stay home, may your hearth be warm, your belly full, and your bed soft.