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The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Since I became a grown-up, and particularly since I became the grown-up in my family most often preparing Thanksgiving celebrations, I have become increasingly distressed that the holiday is not much more than a huge meal. Impeccably delicious, I must admit, but inhaled over the course of roughly six and a half minutes, following the laborious four days of preparation. Though extended family shares the holiday, there is far too much of a few people in the kitchen the entire time, a few staring at the football game on TV, grunting very occasionally, a couple snoring in various corners, and children on varying degrees of “sugar high” racing circles throughout a space that I swear shrinks by inches every time the oven timer dings. Maybe it’s different for y’all, but if you find yourself on the good ship Disillusioned as you chase down The Mayflower, I have a plan to reclaim some meaning as we celebrate the gifts in this here new world. This first article focuses on becoming clear about what we are celebrating to give direction to our traditions and preparations.

Contemplating the “true meaning” of Thanksgiving, we in the 21st century tend to be a teensy bit cynical. The rosy image of peace-loving, tolerant pilgrims exchanging knowledge with the American Indians who had been waiting for their arrival over breathless centuries has certainly seen revision in the past few decades. At the very least most of us now acknowledge that the culture clash was messy, the loss of life to disease, hunger, and human conflict sobering, and the wardrobe tragic. That the puritans were, well, puritanical, and our nation’s true history rough does not mean we should dismiss the holiday, though. Realizing that the majority of we Americans are immigrants, and that many of our ancestors never set eyes (or foot) on Plymouth Rock, it is worth going deeper than turkeys made out of hand tracings and headdresses of construction paper to focus our celebration, rather than giving up on “All Turkey’s Day”. As we prepare the unfortunate bird and break out the jerseys we’d do well to give real thought to what meaning these traditions emphasize and what lessons we’d like them to pass on to our children. Consider the following:



With these aspects, and perhaps others, clear in our minds, it is time to forge ahead and plan this thing!
Please see the next article, Create Thanksgiving Memories and Meaning


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