Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving USA

It is Thanksgiving this week in the United States. It is without a doubt a totally secular holiday centered on the family. Very little direct commercialism is connected with this holiday other than the infamous turkey dish and as the gateway date to the very commercial Christmas season.

The roots of the holiday go back to the harvest festival brought over by the Europeans almost four hundred years ago.

Putting food aside, both Washington and Lincoln asked for days of prayer and thanksgiving during the War of Independence and the very bloody Civil War.

Lincoln had fixed the last Thursday of November as the official time of prayer and thanks to the Creator for the bounty and blessings of the nation. Lincoln’s call for a thanksgiving day in 1863 was set one week after his Gettysburg Address, at the dedication of a military cemetery at the battlefield as tribute to so many who gave so much at a critical turning point of the Civil War.

FDR named the fourth Thursday in November in 1939 to be Thanksgiving, pushing the date up slightly in order to promote Christmas sales during the depression. The fourth Thursday in November has more or less stuck these last three quarters of a century.

No need to mention that when you get relatives and friends together to gather and pray, you are likely to have a community meal thrown into the equation.

On a scale of one to ten with 1-4 as secular, 5-6 overlapping with the secular and 7-10 as sacred – Thanksgiving is a 6.

I have a mixed bag of memories of family Thanksgiving gatherings - meals, people, and friends – one day for many when the crazy American quilt work of people, cultures, religions come together in a seemingly singular ritual.

Traditional prayers of thanks on this day are Psalms 100, 111, the Our Father or any others you may feel to be appropriate.