As far as the retail world is concerned, Thanksgiving is a small distraction between the frenzy of Halloween and Christmas. Each year, less and less attention is paid to this day, except as the day before a major shopping spree (with the exception of the grocery store: getting there requires a helmet, body armor, and a very, very patient and positive attitude). Thanksgiving doesn’t require “stuff” so it becomes the lonely cousin in all the holiday hubbabaloo.
I personally love Thanksgiving, aware as I am of its complicated mythology. I love a holiday that we celebrate as a nation that honors gratitude as sacred across different religions and ethnicities. I would like to reprint here the words by my colleague, Daniel Schatz, minister of the BuxMont UU Fellowship in Warrington, PA. He noted that the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday is not related to the mythologized feast of plenty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Rather, it was President Abraham Lincoln who instituted the holiday in 1863, one of the worst years in our country’s history, when it was rent by the Civil War that had already cost the lives of a half-million people, almost 15% of the U.S. population at the time. It was a time of death, of violence, of scarcity and of suffering. Schatz writes: “The real Thanksgiving has its origins not in plenty but in deprivation; not in peace but in hardship. The real spiritual discipline of thanksgiving is not to ignore suffering but to fully acknowledge it, work to alleviate it, and yet still give thanks. It is to find reason for gratitude even in pain or chaos. It is to look deeper into the fabric of our world and see blessings where we thought none could exist. True thanksgiving is born of hardship as much as of joy, for it is in hardship that we realize and appreciate the foundations of our lives—the community and the spirit that keeps us going, the smallest blessings thrown into relief, the tiniest seeds of hope that unfold in us when we thought all hope to have fled. True thanksgiving looks life in its fullness and finds reason for gratitude.”