We won’t pretend this Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day celebration is the start of the holiday season. That traditional mark has long faded, or maybe it was simply crushed by retail glee.
Radio stations have been playing Christmas tunes for weeks, holiday decorations have been on store shelves for months and shoppers have long been making layaway payments for items they intend to wrap and place under the tree some four weeks hence.
And, yet, amidst the swirl of shopping and the visits with Santa, the nation’s Thanksgiving observance and celebration still has the strength to stand alone. If only for one day.
In the coming days, menus will be finalized, turkey orders will be picked up, cranberries will be cooked down, potatoes will be peeled and yams will be candied in anticipation of the many thanks we intend to give on Thursday.
But Thanksgiving is more than a gesture of thanks before chowing down. It’s about giving. Sharing. Helping others who are truly down, hungry and in need of support.
Thanksgiving originated with giving, followed by thanks. Right?
It began by sharing — the colonists shared ducks and geese with the Wampanoag and the Native Americans shared venison with the colonists. They shared fish, vegetables and, of course, beer. There were also plenty of running and shooting games for sport, a loose precursor to Thanksgiving Day football.
History doesn’t record whether there were any parades.
And, despite today’s more secular celebrations of Thanksgiving, back in the day the harvest thanks was a deeply religious observance.
The Wampanoag had always given thanks to the Great Spirit Kitanitowit for a good harvest, and prayed for a successful harvest the following year. The European Puritans also had a history of offering prayers of gratitude and thanks to God following a harvest, so it’s not like the “First Thanksgiving” happened in 1621, although it was certainly a time of giving thanks. That was the year after the dreadful death and starvation of the first winter the Pilgrims spent in the New World.
Giving thanks is a worldwide tradition.
Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving much earlier than we do because it’s colder up there and, thus, the harvest is earlier. This year, Thanksgiving to the north was Oct. 14.
And, many world cultures mark a day of thanks, including the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles and the Korean harvest feast of Chuseok, both of which were in September. Ukrainians have already celebrated their Obzhynky this year, and today is Japan’s Labor Thanksgiving Day.
As human beings, we have had a long habit of expressing our gratitude for good fortune.
Thanksgiving is about sharing your personal bounty, whether that’s harvest from a backyard garden, time spent volunteering or money donated to someone less fortunate.
When we’re thankful, we give.
In Androscoggin County, the Chamber of Commerce and the Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area are gearing up for their shared Chamber & YPLAA Kids of the Holidays project, hoping to gather as many as 1,400 donated gifts to give to hundreds of needy children.
In Mechanic Falls, American Legion Post 150 will donate all proceeds from its seasonal Santa Parade of Trees to local charitable projects.
The Franklin County Retired Educators recently held a silent auction to raise money to help local schoolchildren.
In Locke Mills on Nov. 30, locals will gather for a benefit dinner and dance for 2-year-old Cody Bean, who is being treated for neuroblastoma, a cancer diagnosed in very young children.
Members of the Danville Junction Grange recently donated money to the Auburn Police Activities League to help the Auburn Youth Center, which offers homework help and organized sports for local children.
On Thanksgiving Day, dozens of charitable groups are hosting free meals, including a meal organized by the Scottish Rite Masons of Augusta Valley at Mt. Blue High School.
The New Gloucester Bible Church will host a meal at its Fellowship Hall, the United Methodist Church of Readfield has invited people to come in for all the trimmings or just dessert, St. Catherine of Sienna and Christ Episcopal Church in Norway are teaming up to serve a Community Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Catherine’s Church Hall, and Hope Haven Gospel Mission will host its annual meal at the Lincoln Street mission in Lewiston.
It takes time, people and money to make these events happen, but first it takes a willingness to give. A recognition that we are thankful for what we have and a determination to share our good fortunes with others.
’Tis the season of giving and of thanks.
If you can give, please do. The thanks will be returned in abundance.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.