Friday, November 27, 2009
day two -- and counting
Today I felt the Newtonian tug of nostalgia.
I mentioned yesterday that Thanksgiving is -- by far -- my favorite holiday. The day that should be spent with family and friends.
Lacking any local family members, I celebrated the holiday with acquaintances from our local church. We share no memories bittersweet with time, as I would with my family or old friends. But, after dining for almost three hours, I certainly have the foundation of good friendships.
Earlier in the day, I must have been suffering from post-stimulation withdrawal of the cruise-Disneyland trip. While walking through the village, I realized I was simply bored.
Part of that was the realization that I was not sharing Thanksgiving with my family. I solved that by calling several people today.
But the dinner also proved there are people wherever we go who can help us share our joy and burdens.
For that we can be thankful.
Every year some postmodern smart-alec journalist tries to impress us with the shocking news that our teachers lied to us in grade school. The rap is the pilgrims did not celebrate the first Thanksgiving in what would eventually be the United States.
I have yet to meet anyone who ever heard a teacher say any such thing. Journalists often confuse straw arguments with reality. The implication being that the earlier Thanksgiving did not comply with the Puritan Myth -- being celebrated by Catholics and Anglicans, you see.
But here are the facts.
On September 8, 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 Spanish settlers founded the settlement of St. Augustine in what would be Florida. The landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. Menéndez then laid out a meal and invited members of the Seloy tribe to participate.
In 1619, the English settlers at Berkley Plantation, Virginia celebrated a modest Thanksgiving on the banks of the James River -- a task they were obligated to perform by their charter, and executed with all the enthusiasm of a 13-year old boy cleaning his room. Considering the civil problems of the settlement, they were probably thankful they had not throttled each other.
On April 30, 1598, early Spanish settlers held a Thanksgiving ceremony and mass in the city of El Paso, Texas. That is them at the top of the post -- just hanging out together in artistic order.
The pilgrims, who obviously had a far better public relations department than the Spanish or the Virginians, did not celebrate their Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation until 1621 -- where they handed out construction paper pumpkins and turkeys to Indians who looked as if they had just stopped in from the American plains.
What those four celebrations had in common is that each group had faced long odds and thanked God for their survival.
Which group was first is irrelevant. They were thankful. And we should be, as well.
Without their derring-do, we might be eating our turkey somewhere in the depths of Lower Silesia.