"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Tidbits - Part 1

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 ...

Wikipedia writes:
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.


Wafa' said...

it's next Thursday, isn't ?

It's a unique one indeed. You don't have to be of any religion to celebrate it and enjoy it.
But it's -i guess- the most depressing one if you don't have loving family or good friends to enjoy it with them .

Carmen said...

I remember dressing as Pilgrims and making Indian hats. I also remember making our own butter in Kindergarten. One of my favorite school Thanksgiving memories.

This year is very different for us, we won't be by any family and as of yet, I'm not sure how we are going to celebrate.

I am thankful for God's provision, in big ways and small ways.

As a child, I would watch the Macy's parade with my dad in the morning. Sometimes we have it on too, but it seems to be more ads and commercials than I remember as a kid. I always loved seeing the big balloons they walked down the road.

And Miracle on 34th Street is my second favorite Christmas movie.

Amber said...

Ah, Thanksgiving. The day when we celebrate the destruction of the native peoples.

I know that's not what people think of when they have Thanksgiving. It's all about getting together with family and being together without the pressures of Christmas. But I personally can't separate the two and so the holiday is sort of a non starter for me. I'm happy to have the day off work, but that's about it.

Susanne said...

Wafa', yes, it's Thursday, November 25.

Very true what you said. Holidays can be very lonely times of the year. Good point.

Susanne said...

Carmen, thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving memories. How neat that you made butter in school! :)

I hope your Thanksgiving is special even though it will be different than normal. Really glad you shared what you did. :)

Susanne said...

Amber, so you don't celebrate Thanksgiving at all? Does the rest of your family feel this way about the day? Hmm, well, to me Thanksgiving actually celebrates two cultures working together and the bad parts didn't really start until later. So you can still celebrate the spirit of cooperation and helpfulness on the part of the Native Americans and God's goodness in providing during tough times instead of thinking it was all about destroying natives.

I'm sorry you are unable to separate the two, but thanks for sharing your perspective.

Amber said...

*sigh* Sadly, my family thinks I'm being ridiculous about this and insist on celebrating anyway. So we do the traditional Thanksgiving. But I lecture them about it. As far as I'm concerned it's a fake holiday. :p I'd refuse to participate, but I've been *told* about that and how it upsets the delicate humours of my elderly family type people. So I lecture. Politely and at length. :)

Really it's the whole hypocrisy of the way Thanksgiving is portrayed that gets me. It's wildly inaccurate and gives some people (those who never bother to learn actual, real history) the idea that it was all so cute and the Indians just needed us to show them the way and really the smallpox and syphilis and starvation and the concentration camps were all for their own good.

It's sort of like celebrating the German invasion of Poland as though it was a good thing for all involved.

Susanne said...

But at that point wasn't it all pretty good? We're talking 1620ish not the later years when the Americans started taking more and more land or maybe I have missed something. I'm not denying the bad parts. Only that the initial stuff was OK. Even the Wikipedia article said so . . . ;-P

Maybe I just never heard what really happened in those early days...hmmmm.

lat said...

Very interesting indeed! And thank you so much for this post! I really needed to know the connection..or rather the 'no-connection' to Christmas :) Now I understand how it's not considered religious and everyone can join in the celebration.And I'm not aware of the controversy mentioned in the earlier comment.Well sometimes there are collateral damage?

Well history is unique and always will evolve with future new generations,the way they understand and choose to practice what they believe in.It's also interesting you mentioning that Thanksgiving is more prefered than Christmas.

Do you know that Indians celebrate Harvest Day too? Now I see how it's correlative to that celebrated in India.As India is mainly an agricultural country,Harvest Day is a BIG issue that extends to 4 to 5 days,with thanksgiving done to cows(with garlands and all) and marriage prospects for young virgin women :)

Nov 25,you say? Ok,I'm cooking briyani :), not because I've harvested any except 3 boys (if you can call that harvesting :D) but because I want to celebrate our friendship and show my Thanksgiving to the Lord as well.Of course I believe this can be done in every moment in our life.But to dedicate a day just for this is fine too.

Susanne said...

Lat, you are too cute! I love that you harvest your boys...hahahahaha! Your comment really made me smile! :-D

Amber has a point in that the Natives were treated horribly by many colonists. I will not say all colonists were brutes because I don't believe that. However, the accounts surrounding the first Thanksgiving - where the modern celebration gets its roots - was a period of Native Americans helping the colonists and I think it was a time of goodwill between both. It's horribly sad to think that in not too many years the conflicts arose and many Indians were killed. Still, it was not terrible at all times and I am holding out that the first Thanksgiving, at least, was between people who had come to appreciate each other to some degree or another. Maybe I am burying my head in the sand and Amber speaks the truth. I've never heard anyone say what she did although I did read that some Native Americans do consider it a Day of Mourning. I think that started within recent years. OK, here is what the TLC article said:

"Many view the first Thanksgiving as an example of the possibility of great respect and cooperation between two different cultures. But others see it as a symbol of the colonists' eventual persecution of the American Indians. Sadly, the friendly spirit of the first Thanksgiving and the 50-year period of peace that followed is one exception in a long history of bloodshed between Native American tribes and European settlers.

In 1970, some American Indians began observing a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day to remember the violence and discrimination suffered by their ancestors. The Day of Mourning is observed by gathering at the top of "Coles Hill," which overlooks Plymouth Rock."

I wish the Europeans had not been brutal in their dealings with the Natives, but after reading "Peace Be Upon You" I realize we are just all from barbaric stock. We just like to pretend we are the civilized ones when that is not true at all! Maybe all of humanity has or can be brutal in their dealings with others if we have our own ways. I just don't know any more. I do think there are exceptions since YOU certainly are gentle and kind and don't seem to have a mean streak at all! :)

Thanks for sharing about Harvest Day in India. I love that! And I agree that we can and should be thankful to God every day. But I do like that one day is set aside as a national Thanksgiving Day. Whether or not you want to remember the first Thanksgiving, it's not a bad idea to reflect on the goodness of God and enjoy family and friends.

I should have been clearer, but I don't know that most people prefer Thanksgiving. I just know some that like the simplicity of the holiday compared to Christmas which has become way too commercialized and stressful. Most people I know absolutely love Christmas .. it just can be a stressful holiday with so many commitments and parties and family gatherings and shopping, decorating, cooking, and so forth.

Susanne said...

Lat, my comment was too big!!

Part 2

Maybe you should do a post sometime how y'all celebrate the Eids in Singapore. You can compare and contrast it to other countries like India that you are familiar with. I would enjoy that since I really know very little except for what Samer has told me they do in his family in Syria. I'd like to know your family traditions and favorite memories from past Eids or how you celebrated as children compared to what you do now as a mother of boys. Just a suggestion for some time in the future! I'd like to know what are popular foods you cook for celebrations, too.

I know some Americans use that term "collateral damage" pertaining to people who die in wars, but I have come to realize in recent years how demeaning that is to those who lost their lives. They aren't "collateral damage," but mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, daughters and sons who meant the world to their families and friends. I hope I never think of lives so cheaply that I can conveniently dismiss them as "oh well, sometimes people just get killed in war." Not that I did this before, but I never want it to cross my mind that some people are 'simply' collateral damage when they are so much more. Hope that makes sense.

I'm trying to lose my barbaric roots. ;-D

Thanks for your comment! Is there anything else you want to know about Thanksgiving for part 2 or 3? ;)

Lat said...

That's so kind of you,Sus! And thank you for asking and I love your long comment! The native American bits I know a little but I didn't know about this connection to Thanksgiving Day.

And I agree on the collateral damage thing.It's demeaning and placing lives below that of others.

Eid celebrations differ from each countries but the basic premise is the same.perhaps I'll talk about food next time,eh? :)

Susanne said...

Lat, I'd love to know how Eid is celebrated where you live and also about the food! :) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief. Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the destruction of the Native Americans.

It's a celebration of the fact that the Wampanoag Indians helped the pilgrims survive the winter and taught them how to plant crops.

The Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest by inviting the Wampanoag to share int he bounty for a week long meal and games.

Some people are ridiculous...

Susanne said...

Well, my Baby Sis may be ridiculous on some things, but I still love her. :)

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Anonymous said...

Being Native American--and not just a tiny bit--I am glad you asked for my input on this blog. I am sorry that I have not been around to read more. You always have such interesting blogs.

As for the topic at hand...I am sad to say I did not know much about the details of my heritage until recently when I decided to delve deeper into it with the help of my Father and Grandparents. It was painful to hear what I heard and to see my Grandfather tear up telling me stories. At his age, he still has a very good memory and was able to provide me with vivid details about our people. I was under the impression for so long that I was part of a certain tribe--actually two different ones--and I still am, but learned that the other tribe was actually the Choctaw Indians. So I am Houma/Choctaw. This was shameful for me to find out since I had believed for so long it was something else.
Anyhow, not so long ago, when my Father was school age, I found out he was not allowed to go to school because he was Indian. African Americans were already fighting, and won for the most part, for their rights yet the Indians were still being treated like indigenous, uncivilized beings.

Thanksgiving for my family was always bitter sweet. My Grandparents never celebrated it. My Father and his brothers on the other hand gave in to tradition and started doing it every year. My Mom also joined in but it was never really big in our home. I never understood this fully until now. I have to also say that I never fully appreciated my heritage until now.

I think what anon said was similar to those people who cry out in aggravation at anyone who claims something other than what mainstream belief is. Something I can relate too. I tend to do it a lot with religion. "oh please...it is NOT about that. Or Please, do you really wanna go there...get your facts straight" etc etc...but what I've learned thus far and what I know from this comment is that the other person may have a different view and that other view could possibly be backed by proof unknown or ignored by the majority. People hate to think about those bad things. I hate when I am faced with a comment that insinuates I am prejudice. I hate when that first thought--"my best friend in African American"--pops in my head and I feel the need to defend myself against what I perceive as someone trying to imply that I have it all wrong--or am wrong. Does that make sense? But, if I stand back and take a look at it--and if the person I feel the need to defend my words and actions from happens to be African American--I can understand where that person is coming from. They are not playing the race card. There is REAL pain and REAL hurt behind their history. Something that the average person would rather push under the rug. It is such a nasty thing in History that is just best left right there, as History. Our minds just don't wanna go there.

When someone brings up something with an opinion that is different--such as the meaning behind the first Thanksgiving--it truly depends on who you're talking too. But you cannot rightly stand and say that their thinking/feelings are ridiculous. That in itself is ridiculous. I am saying this from a Native American standpoint.

Anonymous said...

I am of the belief--like my Grandparents and many before them(and today)--that it was a victory celebration. One need just pick up the classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee to see any proof in this belief...according to the Native Americans..or where it could have come from. People don't want to hear that. Why ruin a perfectly good holiday with that absurdity right? People are always trying to claim something. It's the Jews, African Americans, the Indians, the Mexicans etc etc etc...all claiming they are the oppressed. They are this and they are that. They are trying to ruin it for everyone. Their notions and beliefs are ridiculous and absurd. Pffft. Hmm...seems to be a trend I guess if you look at it from a different point of view. But my view and the views of many many Native Americans are valid and worth at least the basic respect factor.

Thursday will be like any other day around here. I don't think we will make a big ole celebration out of it--just like all the years before--but I can tell you that this year the reason behind my family's choice means a whole lot more to me than it did before. I don't want to teach my kids to celebrate a holiday that to ME, MY BELIEF, was just a celebration in honor of the victory that basically annihilated the Pequot Nation--a Nation that was no different to my Nation.

Part of me--my heritage--is still fighting for our rights in 2010 and still being ignored. I hope that when my children are older, this fight will have been resolved(although it will never come close any sort of recognition or acceptance of wrong doing on the part of those who took so much away from us. It will only be formality). But the pain that my Parents and Grandparents live with to this day, will not ever be resolved. I will be sure to let my children know this.

However, I am not totally without forgiveness. I do not fault anyone who celebrates it under the common belief of what their interpretation of History is--or their acceptance of what those who interpreted it to be(a rosy picture.) It wouldn't be very Indian of me if I did. Besides, who really celebrates holidays for the 'main' reason it is to be celebrated for these days. It is just all about the turkey man, just all about the turkey...no need to go all Indian on me right.

Anonymous said...

Sorry...I am in a rush and all over the place. I hope I made sense. Also, I am not angry and did not bang at my keyboard typing. AND I most certainly DO NOT want to start anything with anyone. I am just stating my opinion. Hope you have a wonderful holiday--see, I'm nice :P

Love you

Susanne said...

Shell, I'm so glad I thought to bring this post to your attention and that you took the time to comment. For some reason I suddenly thought of you last night and wanted to get YOUR perspective as a Native American woman. Thanks so much for what you added!

If you ever are willing to share some things your grandfather told you - for the sake of helping people like me understand the real pain there - please do.

I really want to learn more and understand other perspectives.

Thanks so much for your honesty in sharing. Thanks also for understanding people like me who choose to bury our heads in the sand and pretend life was rosy at some points in our nation's history.

The more I get to know other points of view, the more I realize how much humans suck and how awful it is to be an American. Alas, I chose neither. Fate put me here. I've said many times before I never would have chosen to be born if I had my way. But I didn't.


For the record, I've always been intrigued by American Indians. I think they are beautiful, regal and I really wish I knew more of them. I am grateful for their generosity and kindness in teaching the "white men" who came onto their land. I wish things had turned out differently. The way the colonists treated them was shameful. I think white people are the barbarians of the world.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Oh Susanne, you are a prime example of the beauty that is in this world--that is in an American and even if I were to say White person ;)
There is no need to feel shame or anger because you are not the one who did those bad things. We all--everyone of us collectively--have a responsibility and an obligation towards God, and that right there--when practiced--is what sets us aside from the true barbarians of this world. Past, present and future. There will always be bad and there is a lot of bad that has come before us, but what we do today is what makes a difference. I guess if you think about it, that could be the general message--or theme--of the mainstream sentiments around Thanksgiving. Sure I may have different views and the meaning behind it is different than the average, but that does not mean that I hold every white person in contempt for celebrating something I view as wrong. That is not the case at all. Like I said, nobody really celebrates holidays for their actual meaning anymore and I personally feel the majority of them are really about family and friends, giving and receiving, and most of all, love. You can't be angry at that right?
I am sure that no matter what I tell my children--and believe me it won't be hate them and hate this day for the sake of our ancestors and the blood that was shed--they will grow to form their own traditions. Be it following mainstream, or not, and that is something that is just normal for us as humans. But I want to make sure they know their heritage. I don't mean to contradict myself...I know it may sound like it...I just mean to say that it is what it is I guess. As long as they know.

I have my own feelings but I can honestly tell you that I do not, and have never, viewed another class, race, ethnicity, or even gender of a people according to the evils that happened to be done by someone at some point in time by that particular group. This is the part where I am forever grateful for my parents and my upbringing. Sure I have my days when I backbite or feel upset over something--as per my previous blogs about my husband and his culture lol--but still, in the end I really truly honestly hold no contempt in my heart. A Godly person strives to live this way--and that is what I am doing, and my upbringing gave me the foundation for that way of thinking.

I think that in the end, you're not alone when wanting to bury your head--we're all guilty of it. And I think it is just normal. No one wants to think about those horrible things. And that is good in a way, not to forget, but to leave that horrible time where it was and make a difference TODAY so that from generations to come, there will be no group of people that has suffered similarly. Unfortunately, we're not there yet--as a whole--with all the wars and genocides that are taking place today. But inshaAllah, it only starts with one and that is what I love so much about you. You're that one!

Age changes you and you start to appreciate things you never did before. I think that is where I am. The past few months have been really enlightening for me and while I am suffering with some major things that are weighing me down, I am able to see through all of it to make sense of what is really important.

Enjoy your holiday...enjoy the turkey lol. For whatever reasons you always did. No harm in that. I know that if I am pulled hard enough in the right direction I will have some too lol. And I won't be angry and shout my objections...instead of will have make sure that I recognize it for what I believe it to be, and just enjoy the company. Like any other day

Lots of love

Susanne said...

Shell, you're so precious! I love your attitude. :) Thanks for your kind words!

Love you too! Big hugs!