Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I am doing the Thanksgiving meditation today. It is presently quiet, sunny and with that chill in the air that makes me think of Thanksgiving. Tomorrow we are going to a local parish since my family doesn’t celebrate the day until Sunday. Some years ago, Thanksgiving became a movable feast when there were just too many in-laws and too many trips that interfered with gathering the whole clan at one house. Now, brother, nieces and nephew party at their in-laws on Thursday and we gather Sunday afternoon.

There are many things to be thankful for and I generally remember them each time I celebrate the Eucharist. In some ways, Thanksgiving Day is anti-climactic. But it still is somewhat of a harvest festival.

When I lived in upstate NY we would often celebrate Ember Days—those underused agricultural festivals that are part of the Church calendar. On several occasions we met at a local farm and went from pen and field blessing the crops and animals. The farming families appreciated such festivities and all those who had grown up on farms felt reassured that all was ‘right with the world.’

Our foundational celebrations in our faith were pilgrimage gatherings. The Hebrew Scripture notes three such celebrations: Unleavened Bread which developed into Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths, both agricultural celebrations. They were ‘national’ fetes in which all traveled to Jerusalem to present themselves before God, to sacrifice and give thanks for all they had been given and then to feast on the animal that they brought for sacrifice. These feasts were generally the only time they ate meat all year.

Today, we generally do not think of Thanksgiving as a sacrifice unless our family is hard to be around. But we generally do offer gifts of whatever we can make. We seldom go to dinner without a gift even if it is just a bottle of wine or sack of dinner rolls.

In the UK there are still harvest festivals in the various communities. They are celebrated in church but also in the larger communities. There is much attention paid to the decorations with gourds and pumpkins and cornucopia. But there isn’t the family feast that we have. In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated but on a different day.

These days Thanksgiving is just the feast day before Christmas shopping begins in earnest. We seldom think about how our feast got to the table and agribusiness so outstrips the intimacy between the people and the land that it is easy to forget how dependent we are on Mother Earth.

I am beginning to get rather grumpy about grocery-store produce all plastic wrapped tending to buy from the local farmer’s market which is a year ‘round store. It is a wee bit more expensive, but it is fresher produce and often locally grown. There is also more variety. I also can talk to the store owner about the conditions for the farmers in the area. I learn when certain vegetables are at their peak. It keeps me closer to the land even when I no longer garden or turn the soil with my hands.

Thanksgiving is at the heart of our faith. It is a primeval celebration of what it means to be human on this earth—to be grateful for all that sustains us. The Creation is made to be fruitful and we are made to give thanks to the One who created all.  May your Thanksgiving be a time to reunite you with the soil (adamah Heb.) and mud from which we were created.

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