Thanksgiving Weekend 2021: Puritans, Pandemic and Me

Brian H. Gill's 'Thanks, but I'm Stuf---' for Thanksgiving 2021.

Americans celebrated Thanksgiving this week. Well, most Americans.

Some folks in New England lamented injustices committed over the last few centuries.

And, although those who weren’t killed during a parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, may enjoy not being dead, my guess is that none of them feel giddy with thanks.

Pre-Thanksgiving Checkup: Good News, On Average

Brian H. Gill's 'We survived Thanksgiving...?' (2017)As for me, my routine checkup this week was a mixed bag. I’m still dealing with diabetes and blood pressure issues. I weigh too much, so neither is a surprise.

And I now have names for aches in two fingers of my left hand and pain in my right shoulder: arthritis and rotator cuff — tendinitis, I think it was.

Knowing their names doesn’t make either go away. But the knowledge does help me learn more, and the after-visit report included exercises I can do. So I’ll say the visit was good news, on average.

Health Issues, Uncertainty and 1 Corinthians 1:9

Otto Elliger's 'Jesus Cleanses the Temple.' (1700) from Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta (Georgia); used w/o permission.On the other hand, “good news, on average” still leaves me with serious health issues.

Which brings me to today’s Gospel reading: Luke 17:1119. That’s the bit where Jesus heals 10 lepers, but only one turns around and thanks God. And the 10th leper was a Samaritan, no less.

If Jesus could cure those lepers, then how come I haven’t experienced miraculous healing? And, yes: I asked about my glitchy hips, years back. That prayer’s answer was, apparently, “no.”

Or maybe getting both hip joints replaced with no major complications was a low-profile answered prayer. I don’t know.

At any rate, there’s more to life than health issues and uncertainty. Thanksgiving Day’s second reading, for example. It ends with this:

“God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:9)

God, Love and a Prayer

Dik Browne's 'Hagar the Horrible:' 'It may be the end of civilization as we know it.' (February 25, 1973)

Being “called to fellowship” by Jesus is part of the best news humanity’s ever had.

God loves us. All of us. Each of us. And wants to adopt us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1-3, 27-30, 52, 1825, 1996)

I think taking God up on that offer makes sense, so accepting God’s family values seems like a good idea. They’re very simple, basically.

I should love God, love my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. Everyone. No exceptions, no excuses. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

I said they were simple, not easy.

Before I forget, here’s a “Thanksgiving Day Prayer,” from the USCCB’s website:

“Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.
“We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There are days — weeks, months — when I have trouble seeing that “spirit of justice.” And that’s another topic, for another day.

Assorted First Thanksgivings

Jennie A. Brownscombe's 'The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth.' (1914) from Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.

My country’s Thanksgiving Day started in December of 1619, when immigrants were dropped on the banks of the James River, where Charles City County, Virginia, is now.

Or maybe America’s first Thanksgiving was in 1621.

That’s when the Plymouth Colony’s 53 Pilgrims celebrated their survival with a three-day party. They’d had the good sense to honor a treaty with Massasoit.

And they paid attention to Tisquantum, a diplomat/advisor who showed them how to plant crops that wouldn’t die before harvest.

I haven’t found an explanation for that three-day Pilgrim party. Aside, that is, from the obvious ‘we’re not dead!’ elation.

The Mayflower and Speedwell Pilgrims were English Puritans who’d moved to Holland before heading across the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, back in England, Henry VIII’s Church of England had cut annual Church non-Sunday holidays from 95 to 27.

Boston's public notice, banning the celebrations of Christmas. (1659)That was still 27 too many for English Puritans, who apparently didn’t see a point in rejoicing on days that weren’t Sabbaths.

Maybe Pilgrim Puritans weren’t as anti-holiday as their counterparts in England.

Or maybe having gone from 150 colonists to 53 in one year seemed like a reason to set principles aside and celebrate with a three-day holiday.

The Plymouth and James River celebrations are the earliest documented events connecting our current ‘turkey day’ with England’s 13 North American colonies.

But Spaniards had harvest-time festivals in what’s now St. Augustine, Florida (1565) and San Elizario, Texas (1598).1

Being Thankful for Another Harvest

BennyWikipedian's 'Pongal Festival/Tamilar Thirunaal' illustration. (2009) via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.So, is America’s Thanksgiving Day a Puritan, Catholic or simply secular holiday?

Depends, I’d say, on who you listen to.

Spanish Thanksgiving Day origins would make it a Catholic holiday.

The Plymouth Puritan version is probably still my country’s default origin story.

I’m not sure about the James River folks.

But since a 17th-century London-based company sponsored them, I’m pretty sure they weren’t Catholic.

Canada’s Thanksgiving is just like my country’s, except for how it’s different.

Both look like England’s Harvest Home celebration. And all of the above resemble other European harvest festivals. Make that harvest festivals around the world. I talked about that, briefly, a couple years back.2

‘Tis the Season

Collage from's coverage of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (November 25, 2021)

Nothing says “Christmas is coming” like giant bowling pins, a floating baby Yoda, marching imperial stormtroopers and Papa Smurf.

Some things may say it better. But I like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade anyway.

That said, bewailing Black Friday’s baneful impact on the hearts an minds of my fellow-Americans is an option. So is deploring Cyber Black Friday’s and Cyber Monday’s dread shadow falling upon this fair land.

I could, but I won’t.

For one thing, I like glitz. For another, we’re still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.3 It’s not fun, and I see no problem with a little color and glitter. Within reason, of course.

Coming: Another COVID-19 Christmas

Minnesota Department of Health's COVID-19 case overview, March 5, 2020-November 23, 2021. (November 26, 2021)

Compared to last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, not as many Minnesotans have COVID-19. But it looks like we’ve got another ‘holiday season’ peak.3

That’s not exactly good news, but as the old Minnesota saying says: it could be worse.

Finally, tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent. It’s a time to look back and ahead, and that’s yet another topic.

Stuff that’s not entirely unrelated:

1 Thanksgiving’s history, in (very) brief:

2 Celebrating the harvest and an English company, a far-from complete overview:

3 Holiday shopping season:

4 Dealing with COVID-19:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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