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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I call it "Christmas without the craziness." It's a day about giving thanks for all you've been blessed with; a day about gathering with family and loved ones; and, yes, a day about food.

Gathered around a harvest feast, we reunite with family and loved ones and catch up on our increasingly busy lives. Favorite foods may spur decades-old family stories peopled by dear ones no longer with us.

Our family will never forget the day our mother was carrying a tray of carved turkey to the dining room and didn't see the open oven door. She, the meat and the heirloom china tray crashed to the floor. Not a funny story. What made it funny was that my sister had brought an extra roasted turkey "just in case."

In my family, board games are brought out after the dessert dishes are cleared, and we team up for a long evening of laughs and sometimes, heavy competition. "The Match Game" has long been one of our favorites. Team members must answer a general question and try to match their answers. We divide the dining room table down the center to form two teams, sometimes numbering as much as a dozen each. We invariably spend a lot of time before we begin the game just "discussing" the scoring rules.

Without the gift exchange and requisite exhaustion that accompany many Christmas dinners, Thanksgivings celebrate the time we spend together as family, actual or extended. It has always seemed to me that Thanksgiving is the day that Christmas tries to be, but has been lost to the commercial mania it has become synonymous with.

Many stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day this year. What has become known as Black Friday, the day after the holiday, has now invaded what should be a day of peaceful gathering. It signals the official start of the Christmas shopping season, when many people feel the need to line up at store entrances hours before the sun comes up in order to chance getting trampled as they race to purchase merchandise on sale.

I'm really not shocked that greedy store owners have gone this far. It was only a matter of time before they saw this family holiday as still another way to control eager shoppers. (Remember when stores were closed on Sunday?) Nor am I shocked that they would ask their employees to abandon their families on such a holiday to help fill their pockets. What would shock me is if people filled the stores today.

People are always complaining about the commercialization of Christmas, the materialism and greed that have removed us so far from what the holiday should mean. Here is our chance to do something about it. Stay home today. Kiss your children, play Scrabble and have another piece of pumpkin pie.

Send a strong message to the avaricious powers that be that you will not be lured by one-day markdowns and two-hour specials. Tell them in no uncertain terms that a day of family and peace is much more important.

And next Thanksgiving, when all the stores are closed, give thanks.

Roger Paolini lives in Buffalo.

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