Over the past few days, I’ve been hearing rather a lot about the need to make Thanksgiving a secular holiday, or how it’s possible to make Thanksgiving secular, or how “we eat turkey, but it’s not a religious thing for us.” Uh, what? Thanksgiving is a religious holiday? Since when? Last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday, and this Sunday Advent begins, but Thanksgiving? As I’ve always understood it, Turkey Day was basically Independence Day’s fat cousin– commemorating an (overrated) historical event.
Newsflash… Abraham Lincoln created Thanksgiving with the celebrated Executive Order in order to raise morale during the dark days of the American Civil War. And the real “first Thanksgiving” involved rather a lot of murder and grave-robbing, if I’ve finally got the straight dope (finally). Hmm… not that all religious holidays are lily-white, but this is sounding more and more like July 4th and less like Christmas.
It’s true that “giving thanks” does evoke the image of prayer, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, it more evokes those sugary drawings we had to make in Kindergarten where everyone wrote “I am thankful for my parents” because they didn’t want to look bad by writing anything else. In fact, if you round-robin the table and just rattle off things you’re thankful for, it’s more a statement of hard fact, rather than a statement of faith. “I am thankful for scholarships,” versus, “I will not carve anything except the bird.” The latter statement is entirely based on faith, as anyone who endures these big family dinners will attest.
Then again, carving someone other than the bird gels perfectly with this not-religious holiday’s history.
Sorry. Thank the cook. Thank each other for the lack of murders. Thank God, if you’re so inclined. And thanks for reading.