Thanksgiving is as close as we get to a religious holiday in the United States. You might think it would be Christmas, but a lot of the religion has been dropped from this celebration.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, manages to impress its ritualistic self on our lives every year, and has never had an association with the church.
Thanksgiving does involve a ritual: food. And the menu is the same: turkey and "all the trimmings". Usually this is stuffing (variably called "dressing"), gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Midwesterners often like to complement this with a casserole and/or a Jello salad or two.
This ritual is national; there are very few people who don't participate. People who live most of the year alone are usually invited to participate by neighbors or a "meals on wheels" program. Thanksgiving is preceded by the busiest travel day of the year in this country. Everyone has to be with his own community, his own family. That everyone be included in this feast is an important part of a national consciousness.
Once the inclusion occurs, however, the guests tend to find fault with one another. "All the trimmings" means different things to different people, and many a disagreement has arisen over the exact contents of the stuffing. Celery? Raisins? Cranberries? Suddenly, the idea of inclusion is lost in the search for specifics.
But this is as unnecessary as it is inevitable. Everyone will be fed; that's the whole point of the feast.
What's in the stuffing is ultimately not important, but it is important that the hungry are fed, and justice is done.
But not everyone will agree with everyone else. That's part of living in community. Feasting communities in particular are prone to argument.
Just look at the church, for instance. Here's a community that's been sharing feasts with each other, weekly, for about 2000 years. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for "thanksgiving":
Facing the people, the Celebrant says the following Invitation
The Gifts of God for the People of God.
and may add
Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.
Most of the time that the church has been feasting, it has been having one argument or another. Whether it's seen in the writings of Paul, or the Council of Nicea, Vatican II ("The Return of the Pope"), General Convention 2006 ("The Return of Gene Robinson") conflict has been a part of the gathered community. The feasting, however, continues.
And so it is with our meals. We are surprised when we argue, but this is what families do. The meal, however, is still served.
And once it is served and eaten, we are made whole. We become closer to one another, through our food, through conversation, through the inclusion of outsiders, we are all collected into one coherent national entity.
Our civil ritual gives us a glimpse of God's kingdom, even if we don't realize that's what it is that we're seeing. And then retailers capitalize on that good feeling by opening their doors and offering really low prices soon after that meal is over.
"If only we can grab on to this moment with some stuff!" Or, "All that fighting made me feel sick. This stuff will help!" Or, "This Thanksgiving didn't feel like my childhood memories. I'll have to buy some stuff so that Christmas does."
Or whatever. However it is that each of us is conditioned to do this, it seems to me that the ritual plays a large part.
After the communion meal, Christians go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
After Thanksgiving, Americans go forth, rejoicing in the power of credit.
The page you're reading is part of Sinden.org
©MMXVII Sinden.org: a site for fun and prophet
Looking for Carol Spreadsheets?
Hungry? Try the Liturgical Guide to Altoids Consumption
Thirsty? Try the Tibia Liquida
The Eric Harding Thiman Fan Page: The greatest composer you've never even heard of.
Questions? Problems? email the sexton.
Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Book of Common Prayer
The Daily Office
The Lectionary Page
Ship of Fools
The Sub-Dean's Stall
Vested Interest - Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Andrew Kotylo - Concert Organist
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
conjectural navel gazing: jesus in lint form
Friday Night Organ Pump
Halbert Gober Organs, Inc.
in time of daffodils
Joby Bell, organist
Musings of a Synesthete
My Life as Style, Condition, Commodity.
Nathan Medley, Countertenor
Notes on Music & Liturgy
The Parker Quartet
Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers
That Which We Have Heard & Known
This Side of Lost
Zachary Wadsworth | composer
Advent (Medfield MA)
All Saints, Ashmont (Boston MA)
All Saints (Indianapolis IN)
Atonement (Bronx NY)
Broadway UMC (Indianapolis IN)
Cathedral of All Saints (Albany NY)
Christ Church (Bronxville NY)
Christ Church (Madison IN)
Christ Church (New Haven CT)
Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis IN)
Christ's Church (Rye NY)
Church of St. Stephen (Hamden CT)
Congregational (Belmont CA)
Coventry Cathedral (UK)
First UMC (Lancaster SC)
Gloria Dei ELCA (Iowa City IA)
Immanuel Lutheran (St Paul MN)
Immanuel Lutheran (Webster NY)
John Knox PCUSA (Houston TX)
St Andrew (Marblehead MA)
St Andrew's, Oregon Hill (Richmond VA)
St Bartholomew the Great, (London, England)
St James's (Lake Delaware NY)
St James's (Richmond VA)
St James Cathedral (Chicago IL)
St Mary's Cathedral (Memphis TN)
St Matthew and St Timothy (NYC)
St Paul's (Cleveland Heights OH)
St Paul's (Indianapolis IN)
St Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo NY)
St Paul's, K Street (Washington DC)
St Peter's (Lakewood OH)
St Peter's ELCA (NYC)
St Stephen's (Richmond VA
St Thomas (New Haven CT)
St Thomas ELCA (Bloomington IN)
Second PCUSA (Indianapolis IN)
Towson Presbyterian Church (MD)
Tremont Temple Baptist (Boston MA)
Trinity (Indianapolis IN)
Trinity on the purple (New Haven CT)
Yes, but they're not the kind you buy on Wheel of Fortune.
the owner of a bower at Bucklesfordberry?
Full daintily it is dight.
interested in touch lamps?
And fountain pens.