I have read, though I don’t know if it is accurate, that the Pilgrims would have considered what we call “the first Thanksgiving” more a harvest celebration than a day set aside for giving thanks. Not that they weren’t very thankful to God for the bounty He had given them, but that according to their custom, a day of thanksgiving would be a day of fasting rather than feasting.
While it seems entirely appropriate to enjoy a good meal with family and friends and to jointly give thanks for the food and fellowship, I can see the wisdom of a fast day to help focus our minds and hearts on all that we have to be thankful for. It’s so easy, in the preparations for a big meal – especially if company is coming – and in the enjoying of it (and then perhaps sleeping it off) to get wrapped up in the work and the fun and make the giving of thanks a relatively minor part of the day.
One of the purposes of fasting is to remove distractions – or to allow those that do come to reveal to us just how easily we are distracted, so that we turn to God for his grace in renewing our minds. The time that would be spent preparing food and eating it is instead given over to prayer. (I say all this, mind you, from a theoretical perspective, as I can’t think clearly at all if I don’t eat regularly. Any “fasting” that I do has to be a partial fast, limiting the kinds of food I eat but making little change to the quantity – other than not eating to excess, which I shouldn’t be doing anyway.)
I have no plans to fast today, though the meal will be less elaborate than some years, when we had more people to share the Thanksgiving meal with us. I wasn’t even going to cook a turkey just for the three of us, but then someone gave one to us. There’ll be the mandatory mashed potatoes, and I’ll make corn casserole and green bean casserole, but that’s it. I bought a stuffing mix, but I think I’ll save it to go with leftover turkey sometime this weekend. Somewhere in the freezer I have a mini apple pie, which I’ll bake if I don’t forget about it.
I have to admit, it doesn’t feel a lot like Thanksgiving, or how I like to think of Thanksgiving. Our older son is away at college, having chosen not to come home for the weekend as he’d spend half of his time just in travel. My husband is sleeping as he has to report for work early this evening – one of the drawbacks to working at a retail giant like Wal-Mart on one of the biggest shopping days of the year (the doors open at 12:01 AM). Thanksgiving – to me – is all about sharing with friends and family, and that fellowship is what I give thanks for more than the food.
But today of all days I don’t want to get feeling sorry for myself, or complaining. So I will put together a list of things I am thankful for. And being the creative, word-loving person that I am, I had to think of a pattern to use to make the creation of that list more interesting and challenging. My younger son and I sometimes play a game where we think of words in a category, and each word has to begin with the letter that the previous word ended with. Usually the category is animals (e.g. horse, elephant, turkey, yak, kangaroo, owl, lemur, rhinoceros, slug, giraffe, etc.).
Feel free to add on!