Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers. – Edgar A. Guest
Today in the United States is Thanksgiving Day. Like so many other modern holidays, it has its roots in ancient pagan traditions, specifically English harvest celebrations such as Harvest Home; it became popular throughout English North America in the 17th century, though generally celebrated two or three weeks earlier in Canada than in the 13 colonies due to the earlier onset of winter. By the late 19th century it was fixed on November 6th in Canada and the last Thursday in November in the US, but both countries later tweaked the dates: in 1941 the US declared it the 4th (not necessarily last) Thursday in November, and in 1957 Canada moved it to the second Monday in October so as not to conflict with Remembrance Day. Because it comes so much earlier, I always forget to wish my Canadian readers a Happy Thanksgiving; however, I’ve just realized it will always coincide with the official US observance of Columbus Day, so that should provide a mnemonic by which I can remember it next year. Though I don’t observe Columbus Day or other “official” holidays divorced from tradition, I need to keep track of such things to keep myself from having to drive the 3 kilometers to the mailbox or the 30 kilometers to town on days when the post office and banks are closed!
Thanksgiving is the exact opposite, a traditional holiday celebrated for centuries in one form or another before being made “official”; it therefore gets my stamp of approval, and as most of you read this I will be either busy cooking up a feast or preparing to do so. Then tomorrow we’ll go out into the woods to find our Christmas tree, decorate it, and feast again in the evening on yummy leftovers. As is my custom, I urge my American readers to remember what this feast is supposed to mean rather than reducing it to an excuse for gluttony, and to stay home tonight and tomorrow rather than joining the vulgar mob at some “big box” store’s “Black Friday” sale. Or as I said last year, “celebrate this day…with those you love, giving thanks for what you have rather than just stuffing your face and planning to buy more tomorrow.” And though today is not a recognized holiday for my readers outside the US, I wish all of you peace, prosperity and good fortune as well. Blessed Be!