Thanksgiving Is As Much For The Good Times As It Is For The Bad

Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord's day, which he has fashioned.

It is a virtue to be grateful. It's both moral and healthy. Thanksgiving is a day for practicing this virtue, thus efforts to rename the celebration are an attack on thanksgiving. There is always a purpose for grief, whether in times of conflict or peace. None of these considerations are invalidated by the fact that we have a holiday dedicated to appreciation. It relieves our aches and sorrows without dismissing them.

Indeed, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving a national holiday, clearly stating this point in his proclamation. Thanksgiving has always been about taking a breather in the midst of adversity to offer thanks for the wonderful things in life.

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity … peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict,” Lincoln wrote. The first two sentences of his Thanksgiving proclamation make note of “bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”

The first Thanksgiving itself celebrated not merely a bountiful harvest, but a bountiful harvest enjoyed amidst suffering and scarcity. “For the English, [the first Thanksgiving] was also celebrating the fact that they had survived their first year here in New England,” Tom Begley of Plimoth Plantation told the History Channel.

Both the English and the Native Americans present at the first Thanksgiving had strong traditions of ritual gratitude. “We as native people [traditionally] have thanksgivings as a daily, ongoing thing,” Linda Coombs, a former director of the Wampanoag program at Plimoth Plantation, explained to the Christian Science Monitor. “Every time anybody went hunting or fishing or picked a plant, they would offer a prayer or acknowledgment.”

As it should be, pain and suffering are baked into the very fabric of Thanksgiving. We express gratitude to avoid whitewashing past or minimizing current concerns. Because of such difficulties, we express gratitude.

We are shielded from the sorrow that prompted these ritualized gestures of appreciation by modernity. Rich and poor alike are less reliant on nature for immediate existence in this age of dollar-menu plenty, when famine in our society is unusual, and hence less inclined to celebrate every mouthful of turkey or sip of water. However, our food and other resources continue to support us. We need them to survive, regardless of how simple it is to eat or treat a common cold.

The Bible is clear that we are to give thanks “in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.)

Attempts to reinvent Thanksgiving as a day for rejecting traditional thanksgiving in favor of concentrating solely on evil are both culturally and psychologically unethical and harmful. Individuals who are characterized by ingratitude, no matter how outraged, will be unhappy and unproductive. A country is no different.

That isn't to mean we should tolerate current injustices or ignore historical injustices. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is not an enemy of the disenfranchised. In periods with considerably less wealth, marginalized people have practiced thankfulness in their darkest days throughout history. Thanksgiving isn't about a flawless dream or a rewrite of history. Because of the evil, we must be grateful for the good. We are both lively and full.

Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord's day, which he has fashioned.

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