So, someone asked me the other day if I'd tell a little about America's Thanksgiving Day and how it relates to religion and most especially Jesus. The short answer to that is, it really doesn't. There is no Thanksgiving Day set up for Americans in any religious text, although the Israelites were commanded by God to celebrate the bounty of the Earth in the Feast of Booths or Sukkot.
|But, hey, we aren't Israelites so ...|
Sukkot was agricultural in origin. This is evident from the biblical name "The Feast of Ingathering," from the ceremonies accompanying it, from the season – “The festival of the seventh month” – and occasion of its celebration: "At the end of the year when you gather in your labors out of the field" (Ex. 23:16); "after you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from your winepress" (Deut. 16:13). It was a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest. Coming as it did at the completion of the harvest, Sukkot was regarded as a general thanksgiving for the bounty of nature in the year that had passed.
Since the first settlers known to start the modern Thanksgiving tradition were religious, likely they were influenced by such passages. Also being thankful to God is quite an ongoing theme of much of the Bible especially in the Psalms and Paul's letters to the churches. (see a few Thanksgiving verses here)
Other cultures have held thanksgiving days and festivals to celebrate the bounty of harvest. The beginning of this article told about some of those including this one: "The ancient Egyptians participated in a harvest festival in honor of Min, the god of vegetation and fertility. Parades, music and sports were a part of the festivities." While reading of the other cultures was interesting, the mention of parades, music and sports reminded me of the tradition here for many to attend and many more to watch (on TV) the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Also many Americans enjoy watching football games as part of their Thanksgiving Day.
|Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade features lots of exciting things to see!|
The period around Thanksgiving - especially the day before - tends to be one of, if not the busiest traveling days of the year as many people try to make it home to celebrate the long weekend.
"Thanksgiving also stands out from other American holidays in the sense that it isn't tied to any specific religion, and you can pretty much celebrate it however you want. The only essential traditions are to enjoy a meal with friends or family and to give thanks for what you have. In the pantheon of holidays, Thanksgiving is about as simple as it gets." (source)
|Almost time to eat!|
This is why some people prefer it to Christmas. Yes, it can be stressful to prepare the big meal for Thanksgiving if you are trying to do it all by yourself, but at least you don't have to worry about buying gifts for family and friends and coworkers and pastors and teachers and, and, and... who already have way too much stuff!
"The holiday also honors American history, of course. In countless Thanksgiving plays, American children have told the story of the first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims and the American Indians celebrated the autumn harvest in cooperation and acceptance." (source)
So true! I remember in kindergarten we would make those little paper headbands with feathers and Pilgrim hats to wear at our Thanksgiving party.
|We'd make hats similar to these and have popcorn and candy corn at our party too!|
Any thoughts, observations or questions so far? Do you watch the Macy's parade, football, have memories of wearing similar Indian hats and having popcorn at your elementary parties? What Thanksgiving plans do you have? What foods do you look forward to the most each year? Trying anything new this year? What are you especially thankful for this year?
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.