It feels like Thanksgiving has become a throw-away holiday. History and current reality.
The first Thanksgiving was never called that by those attending. It was a one-time happening. The Wampanoag Indians, which had lived in that area a thousand years, were indispensable to the survival of those early settlers. After the successful harvesting of their first crops in the autumn of 1621, the Native Americans and Pilgrims gathered for three days of feasting and games.
The peace was short-lived. With the influx of more Europeans, the Native Americans saw the decimation of their numbers through attacks from both the new immigrants and their diseases.
Many are offended by the way Native Americans were treated then–and now–by entitled folks who took their land when Europeans first came over and others of us who don’t acknowledge and value their identity and culture now. The majority culture is not often thoughtful or kind.
Christmas decorations are already up in many areas, not giving credence to this very American holiday that nobody else celebrates anywhere else in the world–unless you’re an American expat.
More and more sports tournaments for kids are being held on Thanksgiving Day, making family gatherings a thing of fond memories and wishful thinking.
Shopping has, for years, superseded the family table as a priority for many. With Black Friday oozing into Thanksgiving Day and before, it’s tough to find space for gratitude when the great deals call.
When Abraham Lincoln declared on October 3, 1863 that Thanksgiving would be a holiday celebrated the last Thursday of November, it was in the middle of the Civil War. He made this declaration just after the Union won the Battle at Gettysburg, a bloody engagement that cost the lives of 7,550 men, with another 27,450 wounded. With that loss on his heart, Lincoln was looking past the war to how America was growing. The population was increasing, our borders were being expanded, industry was developing. We were, in many ways, flourishing.
Yet our nation was at war. We, as a nation, would lose roughly two percent of our population in war fatalities–an estimated 620,000 men. It was our bloodiest war ever.
Lincoln urged the people of America to give thanks to the Most High God for His gifts that allowed us to see His provision in our growth and development. Freedom for all comes at a price, and Lincoln wanted the people of America to appreciate what we had and could fight for.
Life itself is a battle. Some skirmishes are larger than others, but we’re all caught in the middle of living in brokenness–our own and others. We demand our rights from everyone, yet we’re hesitant to freely give them to others. It doesn’t matter what faith, ethnicity, orientation, or community we belong to, no one is good at giving everyone a fair hearing.
We can be thankful God does. All of us are born with the prospect of hope and heaven if we choose. We choose. And He hears.
None of us can afford to throw away that needed thanks.