The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving isn’t the food. I object, on more than one level, to calling it “Turkey Day.” No, the wonderful thing about Thanksgiving isn’t the food, but rather the universal aspect of the holiday. From Fundamentalist to atheist, everyone can be thankful and we all have things for which to be thankful. The holiday may have begun in a Christian milieu, but you need not believe in a God in the sky to give thanks. We can thank one another, we can thank the universe, we can thank whatever powers that be, or we can simply be thankful, no matter to whom. As I write this in the early morning hours, I’m thankful for being home after spending several days on the west coast. Hearing the November wind howling outside, I’m thankful for this warm cup of coffee. I’m thankful for the ingathering of family. There’s so much goodwill today.
Thankfulness leads to a kind of optimism. Thankful people can perhaps see that we need not hate others to feel good about ourselves. I think of Thanksgiving as a feeling of love and acceptance. Perhaps more than any other holiday. I’ve heard people of many religions and backgrounds wishing others a happy Thanksgiving. Would that all holidays could be so accepting! Of course, holidays themselves have their origins in religions. Were it not for beliefs, one day would be the same as any other. There are religions that refuse to celebrate holidays, but when critics become too harsh on religious beliefs I’m thankful to remind them that they have religion to thank for both holidays and weekends. We could all use a break.
Thanksgiving comes at different times in different countries. In some places no equivalent holiday exists. There are secular holidays, of course. The very concept, though, of a “holy day” comes from that great generator of calendars—religion. As chronologically challenged as I am (I can’t figure out time changes or time zones or even what time it is anywhere non-local) I often think of the marking of time and how a religious impulse started our species doing so. Sure, it may have been the urge to start planting, or the awareness that the herds of prey were moving on, but in those early days such things were infused with religious significance. And when calendars became canonical, there were religious impulses present to drive it. So, in a way, it is good to be thankful even for religions—as problematic as they can be—on this Thanksgiving.