Thanksgiving is different.
It offers no rousing parades with Sousa marches as in summer, nor is there peaceful, pretty carols as in winter. We don’t party hearty in places like Times Square, nor do we run off to the beach and grill and race an extra 100 miles just because it’s a holiday.
Instead, we gather quietly with a few family and/or friends around an otherwise underused dinner table. We bow and say a subdued and humble prayer, in some instances for the only time during the year. We eat and talk and snooze and take a few hours off from all of the racket.
The holiday IS tough on our cooks. They have extra work and they work hard. But we love ‘em and we appreciate ‘em even though we don’t always thank ‘em.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American (and Canadian) holiday. It’s almost in our DNA. From the very beginning.
We all know about the Pilgrims, or at least the rudiments of their story, a story of religious refugees from Europe who invited the neighboring natives to feast in a time of peace before all of the troubles.
But there’s much more to Thanksgiving than the Pilgrims’ story.
For instance, in Texas they teach about Spanish explorer Coronado, long before the Pilgrims arrived, leading his soldiers in a thanksgiving celebration in a canyon there in 1541 during his famous first expedition through the Southwest. The Fort Caroline Memorial near Jacksonville, Florida, commemorates French settlers joining in praise and thanksgiving in 1564. In 1607, the English hosted Indians in a harvest feast and prayer in what is now Maine.
It’s almost in our DNA.
Folks in the Virginia Tidewater are quick to remind that America started there, with Jamestown, and they bristle a bit at all of the attention given to the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving story up in Massachusetts. The Virginians point to English settlers in 1619 who got off their ship and fell to their knees onto the soil of the New World and onto the beginnings of a new country — two years before the Pilgrims’ famous dinner.
“We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God,” proclaimed their Berkeley Hundred charter. (Do excuse the antiquated English.)
Their settlement along the James River became Berkeley Plantation, which in turn became the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and of President William Henry Harrison, and it served as the ancestral home of President Benjamin Harrison, grandson of William.
It’s almost in our DNA.
Thanksgiving is the subdued holiday. You don’t have to buy anything, you don’t have to go anywhere except maybe to family or friends for dinner.
Not everyone embraces the solemnity of Thanksgiving, especially after the kids and/or grandkids arrive and/or after the ball games begin.
But here’s an appeal to all to find at least a quiet moment and pause and remember all of these things and give thanks for our many blessings.
Remember, it’s almost in our DNA.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.