Thanksgiving Day 2010

I was born in Ireland but most of my secondary education was in England. I never really enjoyed English history  and remember one particular lesson  where I questioned the portrayal  of Oliver Cromwell as a great man.

I said he might not be remembered this way in Dublin where he had been responsible for putting the heads of several Irish people on stakes !
When I lived in Spain for a few years I became well aware of how old history books can be distorted and biased depending on whose side a persons ancestors fought for in the Civil War.

My knowledge of the history of Thanksgiving Day is pretty sparse .
I knew that some religious people called The Pilgrim Fathers sailed on a ship called the Mayflower from Plymouth in the UK,
that they were wearing funny hats,
that they landed in The New World and settled there, had a rough time and many died.

The survivors farmed the land and they had a party with the Indians who had helped them  to thank God for their new life and they ate turkeys and that was about it.... 

so I spent a little time on Google. 

Two articles caught my eye because of their honesty in acknowledging the myths of the celebration 
but more importantly because of the reasons they give for continuing to celebrate the day.

This one on the "darker complexities" behind the origins of the celebration is worth a read but  the most important part comes at the end. 

"But what we can celebrate on Thanksgiving Day is the path we have taken from Plymouth  toward a truly inclusive experience of freedom.

Like Jefferson, the slaveholder who wrote with such eloquence about liberty, we remain ensnared by monstrosities from our past, yet, like him, we send our dreams forward and, by laying claim to ancestral promises, we make them real."

 and this one which states:

"It is ok for a celebration of brutality to evolve into a celebration of bounty. It is ok for a celebration of division – of us-vs.-them – to evolve into a celebration of unity. In fact, it is more than OK.

We can grow as a society only if our rituals and traditions are allowed to grow with us, because ritual and tradition are too deeply rooted simply to be abandoned. 

If they don’t evolve, they become anchors tethering us to the values of the past. 

That doesn’t mean we should deny our history, including what Thanksgiving once meant. 

Recognizing what darkness we are capable of empowers us to rise above it. 

Where we are today is even more worth celebrating when we honestly acknowledge where we have come from. "

The author of this piece is an ex- Christian and she gives here reasons why she will not accept God as part of thanksgiving but she movingly writes :

"I refuse to abandon the practice of thanks-giving and the holiday of Thanksgiving. For me, ever and always, November will be a time of celebrating the love and beauty and bounty that life has bestowed.

This year, and for years to come, it will be a time of cooking and eating and participating in a community of shared, humble gratitude. It will be a time of evoking the deep wonder that we, small peculiar manifestations of the universe made conscious, have been so blessed."

These videos also grabbed my attention and  there must be many others but they have added to my understanding.

For one day at least, Thanksgiving can be celebrated in its original intent: People of different backgrounds and motivations saying thanks over shared bounty and common humanity.

Now about those funny Pilgrim hats .......
That tubby hat actually has its origins as the ‘sugar loaf’ or capotain, first worn on the mother of pilgrimages: Spain’s El Camino de Santiago. 
But the American pilgrims didn’t add decorative buckles until 50 years after the first Thanksgiving.

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1 comment:

Jan said...

I learned a lot from this and I've been an American all my live (of 60 years). Thanks for googling and then posting all this!