My knowledge of my early New England ancestors tells me that, while the actual “first” Thanksgiving in North America was almost certainly celebrated in Virginia in 1619 (it was required by that colony’s charter), we have all been taught that the “first” Thanksgiving was in Plymouth (in what is now Massachusetts) during the fall of 1621. It IS true that the early settlers in New England did celebrate various “days of Thanksgiving” because such were the only sort of celebratory events of which their theocratic government would approve. But, it’s never been established that the one in 1621 was the FIRST one even for the Plymouth colony, nor that it led to some sort of annual celebration. It should also be noted that the Puritan Separatists of Plymouth did not approve of the sort of frivolity which has become associated with Christmas and other “religious” festivals (like, Easter) and would have NOT approved of using such occasions as an excuse for indulgence, gifts, excessive consumption of any sort, etc.
Of course, virtually ALL societies have had celebrations around the time of the harvest season (late fall/early winter), just as many had celebrations associated with the Winter Solstice, the Spring Equinox, and other, natural occurrences. Also, one should not ignore the fact that the early Christian church was quite adept at taking advantage of various traditional pagan celebrations and adapting them to the Church’s purposes. That practice goes a long way towards explaining many “Christian” holidays. If one looks at the timing of many “holy” days in comparison to the dates of many traditional pagan celebrations, the correspondence is striking.
None of this, of course, has any real impact on the fact that we (US Americans) DO celebrate Thanksgiving as a National holiday, AND as the day before the “BLACK FRIDAY” opening of the Christmas shopping season. We still like to pretend that Thanksgiving is not “secular,” but at least quasi-religious, but (politically correctly) non-exclusionary. That’s because, in this age we can’t celebrate a completely “Christian” religious festival (Happy Holidays), because that would be “exclusionary.”
Personally, I rather like The Flying McCoys’ take on the whole idea.
Over the next few years, of course, there was a series of moves to deprive ALL of the native groups of sizable chunks of what they had considered to be their land, the spreading of “European” diseases into the native population, etc. All of which led to a long series of “Indian” wars, ultimately establishing the tradition of European heritage settlers dominating and devastating the native culture and society which would continue until the indigenous peoples’ culture and traditions were completely dominated by good “Christians” who felt it their right to at least attempt to eliminate the native cultures, norms, and traditions and replace them with the “civilized” ones which they had brought with them from Europe. Our national treatment of indigenous Americans is not really anything to be very thankful for.
I do try to ignore dealing with political issues too much in these posts, but a career of interest and study of theatre and drama has forced me to the conclusion that politics and religion have, generally, been of such importance to Western Civilization (perhaps Eastern as well, but I don’t have much background there) that they have a significant impact on almost every aspect of our common culture. Hence, the existence of this picture, which I find amusing, if somewhat unsettling.
It IS possible, of course, to find a good side to these tensions if you want to do so. Hence this notice which I saw a while back.
No, that’s not a “show biz” insult, just a reference to the idea that even turkeys, the most frequent centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast, can (if they look hard enough) find something to be thankful for, even at this time of year.
Our Thanksgiving is going to be rather quiet this year with Kate’s family a long way off in Virginia, and Maggi and Brian going to his folks’ house for the holiday this year. We’ll be fine though. We’ll probably use the weekend to start the decorating for Christmas, which is something of a big deal around our house. Our decorating is not all that heavily religious, but, after fifty-six years together, we do have a lot of “seasonal decor” which is pleasant to have out to remind us of times gone by. It will also help us work off the over-indulgences which tend to be a part of the season, as well. And, there are always cards and letters, etc., to deal with.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, assuming that I survive (and this has, in fact, worked properly).
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” ― Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows