Carol and I enjoyed an unusual event (for us) yesterday. We were both speakers at a session called 'Revisiting Thanksgiving' at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. It was a very well-organized Senior Ministry event which began with prayer and singing, a video, a visit to the pre-school children as they celebrated their 'Thanksgiving Feast', some poetry, our talk about Thanksgiving from a British perspective and then a fascinating sharing (it really was!) with others seated around separate tables about their Thanksgiving Day memories.
No American needs to be told about the significance of Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It celebrates the Pilgrim Fathers landing in Plymouth in December 1620, and their 3-day long thanksgiving feasting after their first successful harvest in 1621. It has become the main holiday each year, far eclipsing Christmas, as families gather together in thankfulness. Sharing memories at our table, several friends spoke about how every family member always made a supreme effort to go to the family home where grandma would cook for them all! 49 family members at one, 22 at another, 30 at yet another, gathered round for the turkey meal. They spoke about their traditions such as each person round the table shared the one thing they were most thankful for in the past year, of cooking the large turkey and wrestling with the wishbone, of guests invited because they had nowhere else to go. All of them spoke excitedly of the plans they have this year to celebrate on Nov. 22nd. - just a week to go.
At one point, Carol said how she felt 'deprived' that we had no such memories because we in Britain have no equivalent Thanksgiving Day, when families (extended) come together just to be together. Of course, the nearest equivalent is Christmas Day itself but sadly that is so often wrapped up in commercialism, pressure of present-giving, card-sending etc and too little thanksgiving for the Christ child. Yet, Thanksgiving Day seems motivated mainly by a huge desire to be together for the sake of giving thanks.
What could we as Brits say to this? Well, perhaps it deserves another post shortly.