Thanksgiving in America

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

This is the month of Thanksgiving, often called gratitude month, when columnists never fail to comment on the theme.  I will not disappoint.  Let’s start with some history.

We celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November.  We have done this nationally and officially only since 1941, although individual states had their own dates since the founding of our country. Lincoln began the practice of having a presidential proclamation, but the true legal ramifications of Thanksgiving didn’t occur until Franklin Roosevelt’s time.

Sometimes we have five Thursdays in the month of November.  In other years, like last year, we had only four.  That’s why it’s late this year (on the 28th) and last year it was on the 22nd.

Historians will debate with great zeal the first Thanksgiving.  Some assert that the area now known as Texas started the holiday back in 1541.  Others will point to the 1621 feast in Plymouth.  Many others will weigh in on the subject, particularly screeching about the lack of evidence for turkey as a menu item.  This topic will then suggest to those of a scientific mind the remarkably boring question of L-tryptophan and its soporific ability to stupefy feasters.

In the meantime, school cafeterias from sea to shining sea will gear up for an impossibly large and concerted effort.  I wonder if any other country on earth can boast that every school child in their nation will be served the identical lunch at the same time on the same day!  We do this, of course, because school children will not get to eat turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy otherwise.  Until Thanksgiving Day itself.

Sated, many of us will waddle into the fray that’s come to be known as “Black Friday”, bitterly complaining about consumerism and the hypocrisy of acquiring more stuff the very day after we gave thanks for all we had.  The irony is elegant.

Despite the rather edgy tone of this column, let me assure you that I’m in favor of every bit of this activity.  Why?  Because with all of its pitfalls and foibles and bad history, this national holiday reminds our citizenry that gratitude is a virtue.  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I plan on giving thanks for you.

Source: Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN