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Thanksgiving is time to reflect on our familys good fortunes
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The holidays officially kick off on Thursday.

At least that’s the way things are in my family. Never mind those years I worked retail when the Christmas displays and merchandise was unpacked and ready to go in September.

It should come as no surprise that the holiday shopping season begins before Thanksgiving and extends way past Dec. 25. The big bargains can still be had during the day-after sales and throughout January as stores clear things out for inventory.

When it comes to the holidays, I still prefer Thanksgiving over that of Christmas. Sure, I’m well aware of the religious significance of the latter, having grown up attending some parochial school and serving at least one midnight mass during my altar boy days. As a matter of fact, Christmas is and will always has been a red-letter day in my household.

But Thanksgiving is the prelude of things to come. We’re still not “holidayed” out.

At this point, we haven’t yet stuffed ourselves silly on See’s Candy nor gone overly zealous on the all-you-can eat grub at the office Christmas party.

Come this Thursday, I’m looking forward to taking time out and just hanging out with the loved ones. The stress level, on a scale of five, is about a two on this day. Of course, this may vary somewhat for the host family not to mention those preparing the main course for this feast.

My only stress level on this day is the drive from Central Valley to the South Bay. For years, we’ve made it a family tradition to gather at my sister’s house located on the San Jose foothills leading to Alum Rock Park.

Over the years, I’ve also found the late morning drive to the Bay Area is often less congested with freeway motorists compared to that in the reverse direction.

You would think that rising fuel prices would make a difference. Not so much. Even when gas was nearly $4 a gallon a few years ago, many travelers still took to the roadways just to make it to grandma’s house in time for lunch or dinner.

Speaking of grandma, I’m the one in charge of getting my mom to these special family functions. This is the time of year in which she can get a photo surrounded by all seven of her grandchildren.

The snapshot is then used for her Christmas cards. My mom, in fact, has several of these sorts of Christmas cards posted on her refrigerator door, capturing her grand kids at various stages of their young lives.

For the kids – specifically, my son, Josh, and his cousins – Thanksgiving is the time when they prepare their Christmas wish list. Chances are good that one of the latest video games, World of War Craft: Cataclysm, Call of Duty: Black Ops, or Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, will be on that list.

As for the grownups, we go the Secret Santa route. It’s the only way to go from totally going broke, financially, during this time of year.

We’ll jot down three things on a piece of paper, fold it up, and place it in a box or hat. It’s a pick-one item on this wish list priced at around $30. Spouses are prohibited from drawing each other’s name.

But before we get too wrapped up in preparations for the next holiday, I think it’s important to savor the one at hand.

Thanksgiving is time for reflection. It’s when we’re thankful for the riches in our lives.

I’m not talking about money.