Thanksgiving 2013: A Good-Hearted Holiday

Next Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada so this is my weekly column welcoming the holiday of food and family and blessings. I am going to count this as my first post on blessings:

Thanksgiving Day Greetings

Thanksgiving Day Greetings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”  ~ W. J. Cameron

            We all look forward to a long weekend, but a long weekend that includes Thanksgiving Day is just that little bit more special. There is a lovely nostalgia to the holiday and it is one that merely asks us to gather together, feast, and give thanks. In her book, “Family Traditions”, Elizabeth Berg says, “No one has been able to tamper with the essential good-heartedness of Thanksgiving Day, or to trivialize it; and probably no one ever will. For that alone, we can be grateful.”

            Thanksgiving does seem to be the one pure holiday left, unfettered by blatant and constant commercialization. We do not need special clothes to give thanks—our Sunday best or best jeans will do. We may send a card or two to special relatives far away, but there is no need for gifts. What is expected is that we gather together and feast on the harvest. And be thankful for family and friends and food. Back to the basics of life – camaraderie and feasting.

            I love the word feast—it has an old world feel to it that appropriately defines the groaning board that is our Thanksgiving. Most of us pull out all the stops for our Thanksgiving meal—almost in an attempt to be thankful for everything. Berg said her “grocery policy at Thanksgiving time is this: BUY EVERYTHING.” I guess her thinking is that if we are going to count our blessings, we should have lots to count.

            She also tells the story of the Thanksgiving when her father, somewhat of a gourmand, tampered with the menu. People politely “put a few crumbs of his oyster dressing on their plates, then relieved, stacked up high beside it the cornbread dressing we always have.” The two key words here are “always have”. We seem to have deep traditions when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal, and though cooking turkey is a bit more adventurous for me that I usually like to be, in the name of tradition and all things Thanksgiving, I serve turkey.

            Thanksgiving and tradition seem to go hand in hand. We all have our own special rituals and customs that it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without. But I still think we can mix it up a bit and add something new to our old repertoire without taking away from the celebration. Over the years we have always celebrated Thanksgiving with the traditional dinner, but one year we went to the Point and cooked breakfast on Thanksgiving morning; another year we went to an apple orchard and picked apples, all the while our youngest son was wishing everyone a “Happy Turkey Day” much to the embarrassment of his older brother; some years we share our feast with others and sometimes it is just our family.

            Every Thanksgiving is unique but always with familiar elements. The word Thanksgiving itself is as Cameron quoted above says “a word of action.” In our celebration of the event we give thanks for our blessings. The day makes us more mindful of what we are grateful for and in being mindful we are being attentive to the things we tend to take for granted.

            Recognizing and appreciating what we have is the gift of Thanksgiving. And, if like Berg, we “Buy Everything” at the grocery store this one time of year, we are doing so to celebrate the plenty that is available to us.

            I will end with the first verse of The Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter. The simple yet meaningful words encompass Thanksgiving for me:

            “Grateful for each hand we hold

            Gathered round this table

            From far and near we travel home

            Blessed that we are able.”

Published in: on October 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm  Comments (41)  
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~ A Little Early Snappy, Happy Ever After or A Little Magic in the Air ~

Cover of "A Family Christmas"

Cover of A Family Christmas

Ever notice how Christmas comes at the right time of year? When it is at its darkest, and starting to get cold and dreary? Even without snow, Christmas lights brighten things up a bit. Last night we had a light shower of snow and it is gently snowing right now, adding a little frosting to the still warm ground. Just that right festive touch for getting into the spirit.

One of my favourite little Christmas ditties is “We Need A Little Christmas” by Jerry Herman–and these lines just seem to embody the season we are about to embark:

“For I’ve grown a little leaner,  Grown a little colder, Grown a little sadder, Grown a little older, And I need a little angel, Sitting on my shoulder, Need a little Christmas now.”

We seem to make Christmas into a hassle with endless lists of things to do to make it merry and bright, and sometimes lose out on the magic of the whole season.

I read an interview with Santa in the book, “A Family Christmas” compiled by Caroline Kennedy, and the word magic was used no less than six times in answer to various questions.

Asked how reindeer fly, the jolly elf said that they are fed a magic mixture of corn and oats that only grows near the North Pole.

Magic was also the one word answer he gave to the questions, “how do you fit down the chimney”, and “how do you get into a home that does not have a chimney”.

How does he fly around the world in one night? Santa says it takes “a combination of lots of practice, judicious use of time zones, and of course, a little magic.

And how does he know who has been naughty and who has been nice? You got it: Magic.

What is magic? I have a two part definition: it is the suspension of disbelief; and the belief that there are things that happen we cannot explain. (It could be argued that this is also the basis of faith—but that is a topic for another place and another time.)  The best dictionary definition I found, (among many) is that magic “is a supernatural power that makes impossible things happen.”

Right now, there is a group of people who want us to only believe in those things we can prove—Darwin is their main man, and they only want to deal in things that can be substantiated. I have no argument with these people—in fact I think it is easy to follow this dictum as it takes us out of the world of imagination, into a world of grounded thought.

At various times in my life, I too have wanted proof positive, but have come to the conclusion that it does not exist. I like to think that there are things that happen that there are no easy or worldly answers to.

I am not talking magic as in the world of potions and spells, enchantments and bewitchments. I am talking about magic as inexplicable and astonishing, miraculous and exquisite.

If reindeer do fly—it is magic. When Santa makes it down the chimney unscathed-it is magic. By the way, when he does get to

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl: a magical moment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

your house, he made it very clear in his interview that he likes all kinds of milk except buttermilk, and loves all kinds of cookies, but most especially Christmas cookies.

Santa’s  favourite colour is red (who knew?); he has hundreds and hundreds of elves; and can remember without hesitation the names of his reindeer. And yes, he does count Rudolph as one of his reindeer.

When asked how old he is, Santa replied: “As old as my tongue, and slightly older than my teeth.”

So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. And what is it that Santa wants for Christmas? Without batting an eye he says:  “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all people.” Now where have we heard that before?

Do you believe in Magic?(Wasn’t that a title of a song from the 1960’s? The Barefoot Baroness  would know.)