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The Thanksgiving table groans under heaps of food, more elbows resting on it than it ever before, and the weight of heavy conversation catching up on the last year.  The holiday scene painted in the minds of every American plays out differently for each family.  Some open with the Baruch, some the Lord’s Prayer, and others with a call away from the Lions game.  The expression is the same but the words and actions are different.

This is not only Thanksgiving, it is what the USofA is all about.  The story of how we came to be such a people cannot be told often enough.  It is a story of deliverance away from terror to a tough land that, in the end, always provides.

The threads that wind together to create Thanksgiving all start with oppression.  Some Puritans craved freedom to worship in their own way that separation across the Atlantic was necessary.  Those who stayed behind eventually took over their nation and implemented their own terror campaign, scarring a land that had already been divided for a century between Catholic and Protestant.  Out of these bitter ashes came the stark realization that religious freedom, a separation of church and state, was the only way to preserve both.

William Penn poured the debts owed to him into this ideal and became the “Absolute Proprietor” of a land dedicated to this new concept of freedom
.  The lands that grew around him were not made of the same material, but eventually attracted the misfits of Europe who had reason to flee.  When they finally banded together to create a new nation based on freedom, separation of church and state was included as one of the basic tenants of the land.  It was decreed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated in November, a bit late for a typical harvest festival, to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution that made the promises real.

Over time the nation grew and picked up more misfits from the rest of the world.  Each Thanksgiving there were more ways to celebrate it in the ways of each family, all Americans in their own way.

Today, the tables groan from the weight of a great bounty under rich language in Somali, Hmong, Cantonese, Farsi, and many other languages the founding fathers of the nation would never recognize.  But it is the same Thanksgiving as sure as it is the same principle that created the nation and brought so many people to this rich continent.  We have all been delivered to a great land defined not by material wealth but by the values – the belief that there is a place for everyone at the table.

May you all be truly thankful for the gifts we have, and in our gratitude may we reach out to those we might not understand, agree with, or even particularly like as we live up to the values that are often bigger than what we can all understand.

This essay contains two links to past Thanksgiving essays that say far more on the topic.  Please click through for some more Thanksgiving stories and have a great holiday.  Thank you.

9 thoughts on “Thanksgiving

  1. Everyone should read the two stories you link to for some Thanksgiving inspiration. They are great stories that speak directly to what the holiday is all about. Happy Thankgiving!

    • Thanks – I decided not to repeat either of them but to try to bind them together into one. Readers don’t usually follow links, but it’s worth a try. I wonder if this series of essays should be put together into some kind of book – and this is a start of that thinking, really.

  2. I appreciate the attention you are giving to this holiday that gets lost every year. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. This year, with the advent of Black Friday occurring as early as 10:00PM Thanksgiving Eve, I am appalled and will NOT join in, nor will I shop at any participating retailer.
    Over the years Thanksgiving has become my personal favorite of all our holidays—the one I anticipate the most, savor during, and remember long after the last leftover has been consumed. I’m in no particular hurry for Christmas.
    Of some interest, in the year 2000, I visited Plimouth Plantation and the replica Mayflower, unaware that I was descended from Stephen Hopkins of that plucky little company of English refugees [and illegal immigrants]. 🙂

    • It is appalling, isn’t it? There is almost a conspiracy to eliminate Thanksgiving from our calendar. The only possible response is to ignore ALL of the hype and have a good holiday, the way it should be.
      Note to the Christian Right – you might be surprised how many of us “Liberals” agree that the morals of this nation are under attack – but it has nothing to do with people who are different from the mainstream. The attack comes from commercialism and greed. You want to know who to blame? Look in the mirror and be confident that you aren’t part of the problem, then we can talk. We can talk about a lot more than you might think.

      • OH MY! The things you could, or have already write/written about the co-opting of Saturnalia by Pope Julius I, in anticipation of the annual WAR ON CHRISTMAS howling of the RWNJs such as Bill O’Reilly, et al. The mouth waters in anticipation!

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