Thanksgiving is a little like Christmas in that we easily forget its original context which, in the case of Christmas is, of course, the incarnation of God.
The focus of Thanksgiving is the generosity of our Creator as revealed in nature and in each other.
I suggest that family celebrations of these days make a lot of sense as long as the principal focus is respected.
For the Church, the celebration of Christmas is second only to Easter in its importance. But Thanksgiving Day is given little or no prominence. Why?
Well, I can assure you that it is not due to a prominent turkey-rights lobby in Rome!
The reason would seem to be that the element of thanksgiving is so firmly imbedded in every Mass we celebrate as to make a special feast day superfluous. Remember that the word “Eucharist” actually means “Thanksgiving.”
You know, if a Jew of the pre-Christian era was to join us in the celebration of the Eucharist, his eyes would light up in joyful recognition and the memories of centuries long past would parade before him as he joined us in exclaiming: “The Lord be with you ...and with your spirit ...lift up your hearts ...we have lifted them up to the Lord.” And finally, at the conclusion of the preface, he would praise the one God in words that he had learned as a child: “Holy, holy, holy ...Lord God of power and might.”
Thus began the Eucharistic prayer of ancient Judaism and thus too, as you well know, begin the Eucharistic or Thanksgiving prayers of the Mass.
Clearly thanksgiving prayers are central to Judeo-Christian worship. Our forefathers of both traditions, because of their closeness to the soil, truly experienced God’s bounty in the harvest. For this they thanked God in liturgical and in private prayer.
The earth, the rain, the sun, the seed, human intelligence, diligence and labour.
God and man at work …in harmony …like so many today, they bowed their heads in prayer before sharing a meal and when the harvest was in, they declared a HOLY DAY…a day of rest …of rejoicing ...of thanksgiving.
But does it not seem that the whole concept of Thanksgiving Day, though, at best, suited to the rural environment is almost anachronistic when transposed into the context of a large, modern, urban centre?
When we go shopping amidst the endless array of fresh and packaged foods so typical of 1st. World cities, we are not half as inspired to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving as we are to emit a groan of frustration with the high prices.
Have we forgotten our roots? Have we become jaded, taking it all for granted knowing that if a crop fails in California, we can simply import from Mexico?
And this, I believe leads into the BIG question: Have we lost that awareness of dependency so necessary to the spirit of thanksgiving …indeed so necessary to the spirit of religion itself?
Even the word “dependent” has taken on a negative connotation …especially when juxtaposed to the word “independent.”
Perhaps more of us need to apply the brakes, step back and show ourselves to be sufficiently independent as to happily assert our dependency upon God and upon each other.