O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
“Save us, O God of our salvation,
and gather and rescue us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise. — 1 Chronicles 16:34-5
All about Thanksgiving Day
Without gratitude, we would not get very far along our spiritual journey, would we? It is one of the nicest things the U.S. government does for its citizens when it offers a federal holiday in the Fall to pause, give thanks, and celebrate what we have been given.
George Washington made the first proclamation of Thanksgiving Day in 1789. It was celebrated on various dates from state to state until Abraham Lincoln synced them in 1863. Canada, as well as several other nations, have a holiday to give thanks around the traditional time of the harvest on different days. In 1942 Conress took the timing out of the president’s hands and permanently parked Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.
The United States’ version of the holiday includes a unique mythology providing the central imagery for the festivities which include parades and feasts of traditional foods, usually shared among relatives. The central narrative is a re-telling of a poorly-documented account from 1621 of a treaty between the Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims of Plymouth colony that included a feast of thanksgiving, friendship, and some food the Pilgrims needed.
The development of Black Friday (invented in Philadelphia!) and expansion of it to the whole weekend has also moved backward to encompass Thanksgiving. So now we are subjected to a four-day extravaganza of consumerism (and don’t forget football, its violent twin) rather than a day of thanks. Many churches observe buy-nothing day as a protest to the overshadowing.
So on Thanksgiving, we look back to a sordid history of relations between Europeans and the natives of New England and we can look forward to an onslaught of consumerism. Plus we have a state-sanctioned, semi-religious holiday to ponder. Because of all this, the day becomes even more important. We must rest. We must be grateful. We must celebrate the many “feastworthy” things we have experienced this year. God is good. Let’s be grateful for the good that is given.
An article from Indian Country Today Media Network “What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale” [link]
U.S. Congress’ Thanksgiving legislative process [link]
A history of the movements surrounding the Puritans and Separatists [link]
Conservative talk show host Michael Medved tries to do some reconstruction of the myth:
What do we do with all this?
You can do it. See beyond the traditions, good and bad, and give thanks. Let whatever distresses you go for a few minutes and list the things for which you are grateful. Dwell on them as slowly as possible. Smile.