Opinion

First Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks to God

Thanksgiving

Spoiler alert:  Thanksgiving is – rather shockingly – about giving thanks, to God.  This is so, despite modern news outlets working hard to redirect us.  Having sought to diminish Christmas, they are after Thanksgiving now. 

Remarkably, one major news magazine proffered a 2000-word story on Thanksgiving, arguing woke folks know it is “changing.”  Quoting teachers apologizing for teaching “misconceptions,” the story makes zero mention of God, Providence, or The Almighty. 

Beyond hyping floats, parades, balloons, football, turkey, banter and pumpkin pie – which Americans naturally love, they weaved in a few other themes.  One is that the “First Thanksgiving” was about being “separatists,” and included celebrating killing Indians and burning their villages. Really? 

Another theme was telling second graders the lessons of Thanksgiving were “stuck in the past,” and not worthy of reenactments in costume.  This is part of “a larger movement to change the way the story is taught.” Hmmm.

How exactly?  Age-old lessons are quaint, ready to be taken down.  They have had enough of pioneers “fresh off the Mayflower” celebrating “the harvest by enjoying a potluck-style dinner with their friendly Indian neighbors.”  Enough of kids trying to “trace turkeys with their hands to mark a day of feasting” or “dress up as Pilgrims and Indians…” We need to get over that. 

Why must our traditions be rewritten – if one traditional American may be so bold?  Well, because celebrating tradition “reflects neither the 17th century truth nor the 21st century understanding of it.” Why is that?  There are only two primary sources, and they may be wrong.  Besides they are short, “a measly six sentences,” unlike the edifying article.  

All this – we are told – means colonial leaders did not think “the event worth more than a paragraph.”  After all, “nobody thought much about that moment.”  Hmmm. 

Perhaps they were busy giving thanks, praying, harvesting, cooking, eating, or sharing bounty with each other, glad to be alive.  Or maybe, they were just bemoaning the absence of balloons and parades.

We are instructed George Washington, who declared Thanksgiving in 1789, may not have had in mind first settlers, to whom he owed the nation for which he … fought. Never mind.

Where did this holiday come from then?  The article variously attributes it to a 19th century “Martha Stewart,” to post-Civil War longings for peace and thanks amid “bloodshed,” and then to other sources.      

We are lectured that the First Thanksgiving was not a “purely happy moment.”  Ah, but one wonders how the writers know, given “measly” writings of the era, but we leave that question aside. 

This was a time of great “epidemics” … affecting the Indians, who mostly “wanted allies and access to European military weapons.”  Besides, the “peaceful meal” was just a break in misery, and – we learn – “did not last.” Hmmm.   

Well, something must have lasted – since we are here.  Then we are told we have it all wrong, as settlers were “rebranded” as “Pilgrims” in the 1800s.  Interesting, as a Pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons; that part is left out.

Last, we suffer the explanation that Thanksgiving is just to support “nativism and nostalgia,” glorifying descendants, a tonic for the Cold War. Of course, we are told celebrating peace between Pilgrims and Native Americans is not modern, as “there are 573 federally-recognized tribes today” and Thanksgiving creates “dissonance between that reality and the common story of Thanksgiving…”  Come again?

Well, if only we could recreate … that happy dissonance today, breaking bread and sharing fortunes with those different; if only we had the sense of oneness in our differences – e pluribus unum, “out of many, one” – then we might all be happier around a modern Thanksgiving table.

CNN weighed in, of course. Thanksgiving is hardly about thanks to God.  It is about those “balloons” being “flight tested” for a parade, “new characters,” “Sponge Bob” to “Smokey Bear.”  Well, okay.

So, let’s enjoy the parade and balloons, minimize our dissonance, put away our leather hats and feathers.  Let’s take in a good football game, steaming turkey and hot pie. 

But here is the straight scoop.  Thanksgiving is not “stuck in the past.”  It is our past.  Here – for one precious day – we are a Nation giving thanks to God, not to criers, critics, or condescending media.  We give thanks for what is good in life, and our nation. And we give that thanks to God, just as our forebearers did.

Yes, about that “First Proclamation After Plymouth.”  It was delivered in 1621 by Governor Bradford of Massachusetts, three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth. It was not … about balloons.  Here it is:

“In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and in as much as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. 

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

Signed “William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony”

With that, my friends, I rest my case – and wish all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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