My post from Thanksgiving 2008 remains relevant:
So, Happy Thanksgiving everybody. To me, this seems like the holiday that has remained “purest” in some ways. Everybody gets the idea of celebrating things they have to be thankful about by stuffing themselves silly. Commercialization hasn’t really taken over – probably because Thanksgiving is in a sort of consumer rain shadow of Christmas. When the nagging details of day-to-day life get to be a hassle, it’s easy to forget how good I really have it. I have a beautiful, smart, loving wife and two healthy kids who, by initial indications, are sharp as a pair of whips and who still seem to think I’m pretty awesome. I have a roof over my head, and plenty to eat every day. It’s easy to forget that health, food, and shelter aren’t something everybody can take for granted.
On the other hand, Thanksgiving isn’t all happy-happy-joy-joy. I’m a history buff and there is always a Clash of Civilization element in my mind when I think about the holiday. From my Thanksgiving entry last year:
In 1620 a band of religious separatists who weren’t happy with their situation in England (Church of England) or Amsterdam or Leiden (cultural influences) departed for the New World. For some reason, they planned their trip such that they arrived in Massachusetts in December. They found land that had been cleared by a prior Indian settlement and subsequently decimated by disease – most likely smallpox – and were able to settle there during the winter.
Fortunately, a native Patuxet named Squanto who had twice been kidnapped and enslaved by Englishmen was able and willing to translate for the Pilgrims and teach them how to raise corn and catch eel. Having survived their first year by the skin of their teeth and brought in their first harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving 386 years ago.
Considering the fate of the Patuxet really drives home how much we have to be thankful about given the relative lack of plague, famine, and waves of foreigners from across the sea. Squanto, as it turns out, was to be the last of the Patuxet tribe which died out entirely when Squanto died of smallpox in November 1622, about a year after the first Thanksgiving.
So, if you think you have it bad, it could probably be worse. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!