Will Thanksgiving exist in another 10 years?
Yes, there will always be the fourth Thursday of November. And, we’re likely to continue setting the day aside for a large meal with friends and family.
Football games? Perhaps. We’ll see if the NFL is around in a decade.
Sadly, Thanksgiving has been transforming from a day of gratitude – literal thanks-giving – to little more than a prelude to Christmastime consumption.
Halloween hadn’t even come and gone before Christmas trees, blow-up decorations and those awful red and green laser-projectors filled store shelves. And while I’m a fan of Christmas music, do we need two months of jolly jingles contributing to noise pollution?
I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving. It saddens me to see it disappear in the commotion of consumerism.
Maybe, like me, you learned about the history of Thanksgiving in elementary school. Who doesn’t remember construction paper pilgrim hats and feather headdresses? My kindergarten class even had a three-day feast, similar to the multi-day celebration of the first Thanksgiving.
Last year, I listened to a Stephen Mansfield podcast on the story of the first Thanksgiving. I was struck by the adversity the pilgrims overcame en route to America.
How many of us would be willing to endure 66 days at sea, crammed with more than 125 other passengers and crew members in a boat no larger than a modern-day volleyball court?
The pilgrims crossed the North Atlantic Ocean amidst freezing temperatures and violent storms, and then disembarked in a foreign land. There were no inns, homes or shops in sight. And no mills, much less Home Depot, to purchase the materials needed to build shelter.
Would you have been listed on the Mayflower manifest?
The pilgrims possessed a trait that is tragically lacking in modern society: commitment.
Above all, the pilgrims were committed to their God. They believed wholeheartedly that he had called them to a mission in the New World. They were willing to risk personal health, comfort and well-being to faithfully accomplish that mission. Traveling across freezing seas to unknown and inhospitable lands, there was no obstacle that could shake their resolve.
Secondly, they were committed to each other. They believed in covenants and built their community around them. These were not contractual arrangements designed to protect individual interests. Covenants bound the pilgrims to each other to create something new and good together. Something they could not accomplish as individuals.
Maybe it isn’t materialism and consumption that are strangling Thanksgiving.
Perhaps our lack of commitment is the force tearing down the holiday.
We’re in a cultural slide towards nihilism. We are wont to strip life of its meaning. Individual desire is our highest priority, and we become incensed if desire is not immediately fulfilled.
It’s going to take more than a statutory ban on carols until Dec. 1 for us to revive Thanksgiving.
We must rebel against the excesses of individual freedom and self-reliance. Celebrate our mutual dependence. Commit to family, friends and neighbors. Seek relationship over autonomy.
Thanksgiving is an occasion that draws us together.
This year, Emily and I are hosting my family at our home for Thanksgiving dinner.
We have arrived at that stage where the adult grandchildren are able to play a more significant role in family tradition and the planning of holiday festivity. This year, we’re bringing a tradition from New England to southwest Bakersfield.
In the winter of 1622, the pilgrims’ food stores were dangerously bare. At one point, the daily food ration was just five kernels of corn per person. History shows that not a single pilgrim died from starvation during that winter. Since then it has become tradition to set Thanksgiving tables with five kernels for each guest as a prompt for thankfulness.
As guests gather around the table, the first kernel is held up to remind us of the past and those who have sacrificed for our freedoms. The second, to remember family and the love we have for those gathered around the table. The third kernel reminds us of nature, the beauty of autumn and the blessings of life. With the fourth kernel, we remember friends old and new. And lastly, the fifth kernel reminds of God’s love and care for each of us.
I hope you’ll join me to make this Thursday a time of gratitude. Let’s commit to lives of purpose, shared with a community of friends and family.
Contributing columnist Justin Salters writes weekly on politics, culture and civic engagement; the views expressed are his own. Reach him at Facebook.com/thatjustinsalters, Twitter @justinsalters or firstname.lastname@example.org.