What is Thanksgiving? It is supposed to be a celebration of autumn, gathering in the food we labored to grow and harvest; showing gratitude for it. One of this holiday’s first incarnations was when the tribes of North America's east coast shared their corn and venison with the starving Europeans that had recently landed upon the Atlantic Ocean's western shore. Many of these newcomers feared the possibility that a state religion might impose its beliefs on what they hoped would become a free thinking society where a variety of faiths and tenets could be expressed in many ways. Several groups coming to the “New World” had only just escaped religious oppression. Additionally, in the 1600’s one of these assemblages decided that gluttony and gift giving on the commemoration of the Lord Jesus's birthday was not appropriate for humble people.
They believed a non-sectarian Holiday where a person may give thanks to the one true creator of our existence was more appropriate. They chose a day in the early fall to celebrate a festival that the Native Americans were already accustomed to.
In the 1800’s President Abraham Lincoln encouraged the citizens of the United States to enjoy their Autumn Feast and give thanks in the month of November, much later than harvest time. By the early twentieth century, Thanksgiving was observed just about any time in November, usually the last Thursday of that month, although some communities still held festivities at other times during the autumn season. In fact, some American towns in states bordering Canada celebrated the holiday in October, which was when our neighbor to the north holds a similar feast. During the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, there was much confusion as to the exact time when Thanksgiving should take place, due in part to Roosevelt moving the date to accommodate retail businesses that hoped to gain more shopping days before Christmas.
On December 26, 1941, an act of Congress officially named Thanksgiving as a holiday that would take place the fourth Thursday of each and every year. Now, in the twenty-first century, there is barely a distinction between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ve become a huge two-month long celebration of excess and materialism that climaxes during a bacchanalian tradition known as New Year’s Eve.
These days, the real history of why there is a Harvest Holiday is clouded by an onslaught of advertisements used by corporations encouraging individuals to purchase objects assembled by foreign labor; things that could have been made by American citizens. Kids spend endless hours before, during and after a gluttonous feast, playing video games and texting each other while they sit in the same room. Families that could have been spending quality time together are instead separated by a gender gulf where the men watch hours of football in lieu of playing with their children and the ladies are grouchy because they fought with their neighbors in big-box stores trying to snatch the latest electronic gadgets. This latter activity takes place during a riotous mob-gathering called “Black Friday” --an event that in recent years begins on the very day of Thanksgiving itself. It is sad, and I will have no part of it.
I just want to thank my Heavenly Father for another year of life and enough healthy food to get me through the seasons; for a husband with a strong back and healthy heart; intelligent children with morals; and a profession that provides a little extra money to help us enjoy life. I give thanks for another year of bountiful blessings and the Harvest.
Thank you Heavenly Father. I am blessed and I am grateful. Amen.