We love the story of Thanksgiving because it is about alliance and abundance. The Pilgrims faced starvation during the early years of the establishment of the Plymouth colony. Massaoit, leader of the Wampanoag tribe, prevented the failure of the Plymouth colony. He kept them from starvation.
Part of the reason the Pilgrims were grateful was that they had lost so many people.
The day of Thanksgiving comes out of mourning. Out of Grief. The abundance is a relief from that loss. We don’t think about the loss. We think about the abundance.
Where we’ve been
Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a federal holiday since 1864. President Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed the last Thursday in November. The losses and suffering in that war were excessive. Americans did not feel much like being thankful that year. However, with thankful hearts they observed the holiday nonetheless.
A spirit of thankfulness during the Great Depression
Celestine Sibley wrote for the Atlanta Constitution from 1941 to 1999.
She grew up in northeast Alabama where her father worked in a sawmill. In the middle of the Great Depression he had a job.
In 1937, Celestine’s mother, whom she called “Muv,” was happily making preparations for Thanksgiving. Some relatives from Virginia sent the family a basket of apples. Polished to a high sheen, those apples were put on the table for a centerpiece.
Their Thanksgiving feast that year was dumplings. Vienna sausage dumplings. Celestine remarked, “If you’ve ever bought Vienna sausage in a sawmill store, for 7 cents a can, you will doubtless know the value in that.”
Celestine and her family prized the apples received from the Virginia relatives. They appreciated the dumplings. They were very thankful Celestine’s father was employed at the saw mill.
This family, in the midst of this exceedingly difficult time, maintained a spirit of thankfulness
The great American Thanksgiving
Through the years we celebrated Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house every year. Mama would usually cook the turkey. Aunt Bill made cornbread dressing and green beans. Grandma made mashed potatoes and biscuits. Aunt Ellen made cranberry sauce and desserts.
Everybody talked and caught up on each other’s lives while the girls played with their dolls and the boys went outside and played hide and go seek. The older cousins had the annual touch football game before lunch.
When it was time to eat, we gathered around a great big table with a lot of delicious food. We looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.
After the feast we watched football while Mama an ’em washed dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, just in time for dessert!
Thanksgiving holidays spent at Grandma Griffin’s house in Rocky Face. How loved and safe we felt.
Where we are
Last Sunday was Thanksgiving Sunday. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, it is my favorite Sunday of the year. We sang the traditional Thanksgiving hymns (“Come Ye Thankful People Come” and “We Gather Together”). I remembered that beautiful sanctuary at Rome First United Methodist, where my roots are. I thought of the sun streaming through those breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows there. I thought of the Thanksgiving tradition started years ago by the late Dr. Garnett Wilder. Thanksgiving Day we gathered mid-morning in the fellowship hall for doughnuts and coffee. Then we went to the sanctuary for a simple service of thanks. We sang the beloved traditional Thanksgiving hymns I mentioned.
I thought of Mama and Daddy and how they steadfastly put their faith into action every day of their lives. It is because of their example that I have my faith in God.
I reflected on all these things while singing those much-loved great hymns teary-eyed all the while.
Where we’re going
It is very fitting that, in the midst of this particular holiday, many of us feed the hungry. In so doing, we remember those who are hurting and struggling. Service to others is one of the things that makes this nation great.
Our nation is hurting. Our hearts ache for those who have suffered unimaginably horrific losses this year. The massacre at that concert in Las Vegas; and the shooting at the church in Texas come to mind. We pray for the families involved.
Even in the midst of so much evil, I am optimistic that we will continue to observe Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving and all of its traditions have lasted for a long time. I remain confident that we will continue to celebrate Thanksgiving as we continue to serve others.
This Thanksgiving consider your family and your traditions. Think about others whom you can help. Contemplate this great nation of ours while you ponder where we, as a nation, have been, where we are and where we’re going.
Happy Thanksgiving one and all!
Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a history enthusiast, and an avid reader of Southern fiction. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.