Over here in the U.S.A. President Bush pardoned a turkey yesterday in advance of our nation’s observance of the holiday of Thanksgiving this Thursday. Unlike former President Clinton, he did not seek a campaign contribution for the pardon. In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d provide a little insight into the this American holiday for my friends across the sea. An American holiday, as our Canadian neighbors also celebrate it (in October which must be due to the damned French influence to be contrary).
Thanksgiving at its core is an opportunity to give thanks at the conclusion of the harvest. Of course, the closest most of us get to the harvest is the fresh vegetable section of the supermarket, but we are thankful none the less.
The first Thanksgiving actually happened in Virginia around 1619, and was started by British Immigrants (wouldn’t learn the language, held to their own customs, etc). The more famous feasting was a couple years later by the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, when the land was free of strip malls, highways and Kennedys. The Pilgrims wanted to give thanks for their harvest, and invited the local American Indians in what would prove to be the high water mark of White-Indian relations for the next few centuries (until we gave the casinos). Squanto, an American Indian who taught them to plant corn and interpreted for them to the native population, was an honored guest. This mix of cultures and races sitting down and eating a hearty meal as part of celebrating God’s bounty serves as the nation’s signature holiday.
Although Thanksgiving proclamations were made by George Washington and later President, it was Lincoln (the Republican) who declared it a Federal Holiday and Roosevelt (the Democrat) who made it the fourth Thursday in November – an example of bipartisan creative genius.
We Yanks will be gorging our already large bodies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, peas, rolls and pumpkin pie. No gifts are exchanged -a pleasant and oddly uncommercial tradition -threatened by Black Friday the day after in which the women of the land are felled by a shopping fever like some Biblical plague. Perhaps, it is their revenge for the orgy of football watching on the holiday itself by the male of the species.
It is a family holiday in which we gather together. Heads are bowed for what may be an annual rite only in some homes, the saying of grace – giving thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon us and for allowing us to be together. The person who invokes the prayer may be the youngest or the oldest, or someone of particular eloquence. My short "The Devil Sucks, let’s eat" effort as a teenager was considered a low point in in the family annals. We take note of family members no longer with us, and those who could not make it, and those who could. Whatever setbacks the prior year might have brought, we still are thankful for what we’ve had and what we share and our hopes for the future.
In that spirit, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to the ATW readers and posters, wherever you may be and whatever beliefs you may hold.