I am visiting with family this Thanksgiving, and hope most of my readers are as well.
Most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as a family feast. Millions of people take on the expense and inconvenience of traveling to be with relatives they don’t normally see. It can be a tense as well as a joyful occasion, but we would never dream of calling it off.
I, for one, get a little tired of the endless discussion of turkeys – the Presidential pardon of the turkey and all that. It seems to be the only external symbol of Thanksgiving that we, most of us, are comfortable with. Well, my family has turkey too, but I wish we’d talk about the “thanks” part more.
Every year one encounters some article explaining that most of what we know about the history of Thanksgiving is myth. The Pilgrims didn’t dress as they are portrayed; they didn’t call themselves Pilgrims; they weren’t crusaders for democracy; Pocahontas didn’t really save Captain John Smith; etc., etc. It seems to me this is mostly beside the point, since I’m sure children have not been taught the Thanksgiving tales I grew up with for several decades.
In recent years, our arbiters of culture have taken to claiming that Thanksgiving symbolizes the ideal of “inclusiveness” and “tolerance” in our multicultural, immigrant society. Brenda Walker chronicles some extreme but not atypical examples in VDare today. Englishman Godfrey Hodgson succumbs to this vice in his recent account of the American Thanksgiving, A Great & Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims & the Myth of the First Thanksgiving.
It is a festival that comes even closer than the Fourth of July to the deepest of all American national feelings: gratitude for God’s special providence for the United States as a nation of immigrants who have lived for the most part in peace and plenty under the rule of law as established with the consent of the governed. (p. viii)
Although Hodgson emphasizes repeatedly that the Pilgrims’ intentions had little to do with later American nationhood and democratic ideals, he seems to conclude that it is best that Thanksgiving be understood this way. I beg to differ. It has indeed developed as a holiday celebrated by the American people as a nation, but for this to have any meaning there has to be a nation, which by definition cannot be composed of immigrants.
Thanksgiving is certainly culturally specific. Many cultures have harvest celebrations, which are often rowdy, alcohol-soaked occasions, but America’s subdued celebration, which has never completely lost the idea of giving humble thanks, is distinct to our Anglo-Protestant heritage. Many families make a point of inviting someone from outside the family who is unable to be with relatives. The foods we eat at Thanksgiving remain those that are hardest to find outside of the country.
We do have much to be thankful for in these perilous times. I wish all my readers a very happy Thanksgiving. And I would also like to take this chance to express my own thanks to the readers and bloggers who have supported The Heritage American in the first few months of its existence. We have lots of work to do, so let’s use this weekend to recharge.
Update: Let us pray for the safety of our countrymen, and for all those affected by today’s jihad attack in India. No news yet on American victims.
(1) Godfrey Hodgson, A Great & Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims & the Myth of the First Thanksgiving, New York: Public Affairs, 2006.