Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

Today Americans everywhere gather around the table with their family and closest friends, eat a copious meal with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, beans, jello, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie... They celebrate Thanksgiving Day, started with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1623 in thanksgiving for the bounty of their harvest, for surviving the first years of settling these new shores. Beer was involved in the choice of the location, landing at Plymouth Rock was not planned! (If you haven't read this blog before, this might be new to you, but beer really is the foundation of civilization!) The Mayflower, the ship that brought the Pilgrim Fathers to American shores, was running low on beer, so the crew kicked out their passengers when they realized this, so they could sail back to the nearest port before they ran out of their beer supply!

The official day was instituted by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, but as early as 1789 this day was celebrated. There are many earlier dates for Thanksgiving parties, but those were local or state wide celebrations. I really like the proclamation written by George Washington, as it eloquently states the reasons for this day's festivities:
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. 
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. 
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
 George Washington
It is a most American celebration, one I fell in love with the first time I was allowed to partake when I first arrived here. Sometimes people -even Americans themselves- say that Americans have no culture, being a relatively young nation, made up of this mix of other peoples and cultures. When I hear that, I always disagree, and point to Thanksgiving, observed in a very similar way by Americans everywhere, from Alaska to Florida, and from Hawaii to Maine. Granted, the ingredients are not unique to the United States, but how they are put together is. A meal that anywhere would be considered a grand feast! It ties together a sense of history, a common life, a gratitude for what we've been given and the blessings in our lives, with a celebration of the Giver of those blessings and of the first settlers of this country, shared with the Native People already living here. A very layered and rich day it is, then, one that citizens of this country can rightly claim as their own, with a sense of pride.

Whether or not you are an American citizen, let's all stop for a moment to give thanks for our life and all we have. Then, raise a glass of beer to it! Cheers all, and happy Thanksgiving!

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