What happened to Thanksgiving?
The month of November used to be filled with legends of Pilgrims and Indians and school plays, Squanto. Miles Standish, Priscilla Alden.
Though their stories have turned out to be more fiction that fact, Thanksgiving was always a major part of the end of the year holiday count-down.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.
But, where did it go?
I’m afraid it’s been gobbled up by the flat screen.
The truth is in the year 2011, 390 years after it was first celebrated, Thanksgiving means television, television and more television:
We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in the morning, football bowl games in the afternoon and evening and squeeze the “traditional” feast somewhere in between. There’s narry an Indian or Pilgrim in sight…
And to add insult to injury, Santa is the star of the Thanksgiving parade and everyone tunes in just to see and hear a range of performers from the latest Broadway musicals to the country’s top high school bands. I’m not complaining because our Port Chester High School Marching band was chosen to march in the parade and even starred in the re-make of Miracle on 34th Street!
But, how did Thanksgiving, that most American of all holidays, get lost in the media shuffle? Maybe it was too young and immature to fight back.
Unlike the ancient feasts of All Hallows Eve and The Festival of Lights which have both been Christianized, Thanksgiving is a very recent holiday. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday in the middle of the Civil War, 1863.
And the traditional Thanksgiving feast varies as much as the people who prepare it. My German grandmother made bread stuffing for her turkey, my Italian grandmother used a more spicy sausage for hers.
The logical conclusion; Thanksgiving is as American as you can get, a melting pot of feasts that interpret and define cultures from all over the world. Of course it’s overshadowed by the media, it’s personal and familial, just as it was during the fall harvest of 1621 when a staunch group of English settlers welcomed the native people into their settlement. First, the colonists thanked the natives who helped them survive their first winter; half of the original group died. Then together, natives and pilgrims thanked their Creator for a bountiful harvest.
Over the years, I’ve tried to get our family to recreate that spirit by introducing a Native American Thanksgiving prayer for everyone to read aloud before the feast. They did it to please me…but they weren’t thrilled. If you want a copy, it’s in the next two blogs.
In our family, like so many others, Thanksgiving traditions work better when it comes to food. We usually say what we’re thankful for and love to sing together, but I always get to make the candied sweet potatoes. Amen!