“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.”
Christmas songs are beginning to be heard in stores, decorations are up for sale, reminders to order early because the ports are backed up are trying to convince us to order gifts NOW but the truth the calendar reminds us of is that first comes Thanksgiving. Perhaps there is a lesson here. Thankfulness and not obligation may best motivate shopping.
We generally know the history of this holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada. The President signs a law that we are all to rest from work and go to our place of worship and thank our deity for the harvest and the blessings of this year. For many the transition from All Saints Day to Thanksgiving involves the process of grieving the loss of loved ones due to Covid or age or accident or ailments and then pivoting to celebrate. Somehow our mood is dampened. The early Pilgrims may well have understood as they had a rough arrival in this land and had to learn to survive. Many died.
In 1621 the 50 survivors were met by 90 of the Wampanoag nation. Over the next couple days the two groups socialized with limited language and understanding of each other. It ended with a feast that was not on long tables but probably both groups sitting on the ground or on barrels with plates in laps. It sealed a treaty between the two groups until King Philip’s War in 1675-76 when many lost lives.
Regular days of prayer, giving thanks for victories in life, were part of the culture. Yet in 1798 when the U.S. Continental Congress tried to legalize the holiday, it became a point of conflict. Perhaps not dissimilar to masking today. It was not until Oct. 3, 1863, when Northerners had the majority in government that a law was passed under Abraham Lincoln for the last Thursday of November for Thanksgiving. 1942 FDR named the fourth Thursday of November as the day and so it has stayed.
The date we celebrate is not that important. That Anglos may well not have survived without collaboration with neighbors is important and should not be forgotten. As the USA has become more urban, travel for family gatherings makes Thanksgiving the most traveled holiday. Family and friends are worth traveling to see. Each family has traditions that govern the celebration: turkey or ham, who makes the pies, cranberries, vegetables, and what about rolls. Yep that all goes into a celebration that may usher in the Christmas season but more importantly we will be reflecting on the state of our hearts as we approach this holiday. We will use the letters of the word “thanksgiving” to guide our meditations.
To prime the pump today, write the letters of thanksgiving down the left side of a piece of paper and see how many items of thanks you can list for each letter. Tomorrow is “T” for turkey, thanks, talents, twins… Let’s not count sheep but blessings this month!