Skip to comments.What Thanksgiving Means
Posted on 11/16/2007 10:16:30 AM PST by davebailey
I admit that I love Thanksgiving. I, like most, also love to celebrate Christmas and Halloween, but I have to say that Thanksgiving holds an especially important place for me. I observe the shopping frenzies that surround Halloween and Christmas, even coming to define the holidays for many, and yet Thanksgiving has no such rush, unless you want to count the stacks of frozen turkeys and stuffing at the local grocery stores.
I was born on the 22 of November, a day that always falls on the fourth week of the month. Specifically, it falls on an important Thursday every six or seven years, although the period from 1990 to 2001 marked a twelve year departure from this cycle because of variations in the calendar. Thanksgiving Day is close at hand as I write this, and I often think about the holiday, its origins and what it means to us today.
As any elementary school child can tell you, Thanksgiving Day is a tradition in our country dating back to the early European settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, known as Pilgrims. Members of the Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims had a three-day feast in 1621, because they could. Life had not been so kind to the settlers in prior years, causing the starvation of many. Nearly half of their number had died of disease, starvation, and exposure.
The first official national day of thanksgiving was held in 1789 when President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26th to be a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. They had a lot to be thankful for, as the nation had just achieved what the world powers of the day had thought impossible. They had formed a new nation out 13 separate states and ratified a new constitution, which now has lasted for well over 200 years.
The uniform, regular national observance of Thanksgiving wasnt started until 1863 when another President, Abraham Lincoln, issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation to declare a yearly holiday in late November. The nation had a lot to be thankful for then, too. The civil war, in which so much life had been lost, was nearing an end. Lincoln stated that The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. [This is] a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
To me, Thanksgiving is a time to gather those you love around you, family and closest friends, and spend some time discussing not the things which separate us, but the things that bring us together. It is a time to acknowledge the hand of a greater power than ourselves in the good things of life. Even the atheist can acknowledge that circumstances could be less kind and giving. It is a time of introspection, a time to forget strife and struggle, a time to cast off the negativity and bitterness, and a time to celebrate that which is worth celebrating.
It is hard to imagine a people more blessed than us here today. We truly enjoy a bounty unimaginable to most throughout the places and ages of the world. This is something worth recognizing and considering. And during the coming holiday season to remember to share the goodness in our lives with those who have less of it than us.
Ultimately, I love Thanksgiving Day because it celebrates the things that money can't buy... apologies to the turkey farmers.
Since Ms. Stewart won't be coming, I've made a few small changes: Our sidewalk will not be lined with homemade, paper bag luminaries. After a trial run, it was decided that no matter how cleverly done, rows of flaming lunch sacks do not have the desired welcoming effect.
Once inside, our guests will note that the entry hall is not decorated with the swags of Indian corn and fall foliage I had planned to make. Instead, I've gotten the kids involved in the decorating by having them track in colorful autumn leaves from the front yard. The mud was their idea.
The dining table will not be covered with expensive linens, fancy china, or crystal goblets. If possible, we will use dishes that match and everyone will get a fork. Since this IS Thanksgiving, we will refrain from using the plastic Peter Rabbit plate and the Santa napkins from last Christmas.
Our centerpiece will not be the tower of fresh fruit and flowers that I promised. Instead we will be displaying a hedgehog-like decoration hand-crafted from the finest construction paper. The artist assures me it is a turkey.
We will be dining fashionably late. The children will entertain you while you wait. I'm sure they will be happy to share every nice comment I have made regarding Thanksgiving, pilgrims and the turkey hotline. Please remember that most of these comments were made by me at 5:00 a.m. upon discovering that the turkey was still hard enough to cut diamonds.
As accompaniment to the children's recital, I will play a recording of tribal drumming. If the children should mention that I don't own a recording of tribal drumming, or that tribal drumming sounds suspiciously like a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer, ignore them. They are lying.
We toyed with the idea of ringing a dainty silver bell to announce the start of our feast. In the end, we chose to keep our traditional method. We've also decided against a formal seating arrangement. When the smoke alarm sounds, please gather around the table and sit where you like. In the spirit of harmony, we will ask the children to sit at a separate table. In a separate room. Next door.
Now, I know you have all seen pictures of one person carving a turkey in front of a crowd of appreciative onlookers. This will not be happening at our dinner. For sanity safety reasons, the turkey will be carved in a private ceremony. I stress "private", meaning: Do not, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen to laugh at me. Do not send small, unsuspecting children to check on my progress. I have an electric knife. The turkey is unarmed. It stands to reason that I will eventually win. When I do, we will eat.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind my young diners (and any males present) that "passing the rolls" is not a football play. Nor is it a request to bean your sister in the head with warm tasty bread. Oh, and one reminder for the adults: For the duration of the meal, and especially while in the presence of young diners, we will refer to the giblet gravy by its lesser-known name: Cheese Sauce. If a young diner questions you regarding the origins or type of Cheese Sauce, plead ignorance.
Before I forget, there is one last change. Instead of offering a choice between 12 different scrumptious homemade desserts, we will be serving the traditional pumpkin pie, garnished with whipped cream, small fingerprints, and broken crust. You will still have a choice; you may take it or leave it.
Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. She probably won't come next year either. I am thankful.
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