The Thanksgiving feast is just a day away, a singular American
tradition obsessed with consuming at a single meal more food and drink than
most central African residents eat in a month or more. We give thanks for our
abundance by eating abundantly. However, given the troubling economic
conditions, for most of us our abundance has dwindled a bit. Nonetheless, we give
thanks for all we have, just as the Puritan New England settlers gave thanks, to
the God of our understanding.
The Thanksgiving celebration evolved from the English “Harvest
Home” festival observed in early New England and was a Puritan gathering to
give thanks for the first crop of corn, squash, and beans along with wild game,
fish, and fowl that they had learned to gather, as a New York Times article by
Andrew Beahrs notes in the paper today. From what I recall of pre-American
history, I doubt that the Puritans gorged themselves because the cold of winter
was coming, if not already on them. Most of us, me included, can only imagine how daunting
the prospect of winter was for the settlers in a strange place and how they must have wondered if they
could survive on what they had grown and gathered. Some us may wonder today if
we can weather the current economic winter.
Projecting and planning is a natural human instinct. Ancestors
that survived passed on our collective obsessions and fears. Nevertheless, for
just one day we try to lay aside these evolved character traits and give thanks
for all we have.