Yep, we’re finally doing it. Bev and I are checking out of the Thanksgiving Day scenario. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years but were afraid of making too many waves among our extended families. Our kids are just about grown now, both young adults, so if they want to continue with the tradition it’s up to them.
(First off, I just want to stress that this is a personal ideal of ours and we are not saying that it’s the right thing to do for everyone. So please, enjoy your Thanksgiving Holidays with family and friends.)
For some time I’ve been thinking that this holiday is the epitome of irony. I won’t take the time now to discuss the historicity of the tradition – like many great symbols it may be based upon myth, but myth is often a good way of remembering some very valuable truths.
The Thanksgiving story that I grew up with went something like this; in their first year in North America the pilgrims almost died, basically because they were unprepared. Fortunately for them, the local “Indians” were friendly and they helped the Pilgrims survive and in the process showed them how to live off the land. Instead of starving, the pilgrims enjoyed a great harvest and in celebration of their good fortune they prepared a feast of thanksgiving for themselves and their new hosts. They were grateful to God for saving them from misery and death and, with the help of the natives, even realized an abundance of riches.
Flash forward nearly 400 years to what Thanksgiving is today. A great meal prepared lovingly by the family matriarch, tremendous quantities of food served to relatives gathered about the dining room table, Dad preparing to inflict his carving abilities upon a beautiful roasted turkey. But first, all heads bow in prayerful thanksgiving for the blessings that God has bestowed upon everyone at the table. Thanks are given for the great good fortune of being born American in a world that is sorely lacking in health, wealth and happiness.
Second and third helpings are served, followed by pumpkin pies and coffee. Grazing upon leftovers throughout the afternoon, friends and family enjoy each other’s company, often while watching the traditional football game on TV. A cozy fire is on the hearth, candles flicker on the mantel.
Cartoon by Ramirez
Here is the irony – what about those not at the table? How can they be thankful for their blessings, especially if they cannot nearly enjoy the same fruits of prosperity as we do? What about those who made this tradition possible, the Native Americans – will they also enjoy a feast giving thanks to the God of the Pilgrims? Should they even consider it? Unlike the Pilgrims, most of us sitting down to this meal, grateful for our good fortune, have never experienced hunger or poverty. Most of us have never had to rely upon the humbling assistance of others to stay alive, as the Pilgrims had to do. And yet the descendants of those who helped our forefathers carve out a living on this continent are forced to live on the worst land our nation is willing to give back.
As important as the topic is I don’t want to focus on the abuses, past or present, suffered by Native Americans in the aftermath of colonialism. There are many people in America and around the globe that find it impossible to provide their families with the kind of banquet that many of us (in spite of its name) take so for granted. Millions can barely scrape together one lousy meal a day.
So, we’re backing out – we can’t do it anymore. And honestly…. it won’t be much of a “sacrifice”. The holiday season has become taxing for us (as well as many other people). It’s like some great frenetic conveyor belt, pulling us along toward goals of decreasing significance in our lives. We feel it’s high time for the two of us to get off and start looking at where we’ve been going.