Every year, we celebrate. Families travel across the county or the country to be together. Friends assemble and recipes are dusted off. We rush to stores and dig through our pantries to get the perfect ingredients. And for one long day, we give thanks. This is Thanksgiving.
Of all of the American cultural traditions, Thanksgiving stands alone. It is a modern remembrance of a harvest festival from exactly 400 years ago. The story about that event is one we all learned in grade school: a group of the first European settlers arrived the year before at Plymouth Rock, endured a harsh winter, but survived through the generosity of the local indigenous people. As a symbol of gratitude, those who survived hosted a feast of friendship. And ever since then, we Americans have done the same.
Not much of that story is true. The Pilgrims arrived on the continent four centuries after the Vikings and ninety years after the first British colonists. That winter was mild. And the Wampanoags were far more strategic in their engagement with the Pilgrims, as their community had already spent the last twenty years dealing with the annual landing of English ships. Also, we didn’t really start celebrating Thanksgiving as Americans until after the Civil War.
The real history, albeit fascinating, is not what matters. Today we are doing something which we admittedly should always be doing. Reconnecting, relaxing, and most importantly: giving thanks.
Thanks that today, we are able to be with each other.
Thanks that while we could always have more, today we have enough.
Thanks that we have a past to study, and a future to create.
And thanks that what we do not need for ourselves, we can choose to pass along to others.