Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving day after thoughts

I hope all of the Daily Duck regulars enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. Joseph Epstein offered a few unique thoughts on this unique holiday in the Wall Street Journal:
Conventional wisdom has it that Thanksgiving is the best of all American holidays. As a contrarian, I'd like to put that wisdom to the test.

Thanksgiving does have the absence of the heavy hand of dreary gift giving that has put the groans in Christmas, the moans in Hanukkah. And no one has written treacly Thanksgiving songs, comparable to "White Christmas" and "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," which, I suspect, have helped make Christmas one of the prime seasons for suicide. Let us not speak of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," of whose travail we shall all have heard more than our fill as we ride up elevators and pass along the aisles of department stores.

For some time in America we have, of course, been living under Kindergarchy, or rule by children. If children do not precisely rule us, then certainly all efforts, in families where the smallish creatures still roam, are directed to relieving their boredom if not (hope against hope) actually pleasing them.

Let us be thankful that Thanksgiving has not yet fallen to the Kindergarchy, as has just about every other holiday on the calendar, with the possible exceptions of Yom Kippur and Ramadan. Thanksgiving is not about children. It remains resolutely an adult holiday about grown-up food and drink and football.

Well stated, Joe. Thanksgiving has always been the holiday where young children learned their true status in the pecking order through banishment to the dreaded "card table", so that grandparents, aunts and uncles could enjoy the esteemed chairs at the family table. It is one of the few remaining traditions where young children are taught to show some respect for age, and to accept some humility. I think it is a status that most children have always been happy to accept, as it removes them from the dreaded "center of attention". I don't think that today's children enjoy their elevated and unearned status as much as the Kindercrats imagine that they do. With elevated status comes elevated expectations, and as with all unearned honors, eventual disappointment.

Epstein takes a few parting shots at the militantly secular:
While secular in tone, Thanksgiving is also slightly religious in spirit. I am having Thanksgiving this year at the home of my son and daughter-in-law, and because of the slight religious nature of the holiday have asked them not to invite Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens or any of the rest of the atheist gang, all of whom seem likely, if on the premises, to put a dampening spirit onto the proceedings.

Of course anyone who would interject partisan squabbles into a family celebration should not be welcome, but it is a stretch for Epstein to tar the rest of the "atheist gang" with the bad manners of a few. Maybe Dawkins should be seated at the card table with these guys:

A few years ago, some Christians began to sound the alarm about a "war on Christmas," alleging that schools, courts, and local governments were transforming a sacred holiday into a secularized winter festival. Now, much as the 24-hour Christmas music on the radio seems to start earlier each year, a few believers are voicing their worry about the secularization of our society in November instead of December. Concerned about the eroding religious dimension of Thanksgiving, they urge a return to a more sacred holiday. If the war-on-Christmas crowd asks us to put Christ back into Christmas, these Thanksgiving religionists urge us to celebrate Thanksgiving with the emphasis on thanking God. But complaints about a secularized Thanksgiving are even less convincing than the outcry over Christmas.

As holidays go, Thanksgiving has long suffered from an especially acute spiritual identity crisis. Even the most casually religious Americans say grace or otherwise offer thanks before Thanksgiving dinner—even if the thanking is done between pie-eating binges. On the other hand, it's not as common for us to attend a worship service on Thanksgiving as it is on more obviously religious days like Christmas and Easter. So, just how religious of a holiday should we consider Thanksgiving? Some seem to want to answer that question by telling us exactly how and whom to thank.

In Christianity Today's Leadership Journal, Eric Reed decried a "thankless society" that has forgotten the holiday's putative religious significance. R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary called the secular vision of Thanksgiving "empty and false" on the Washington Post religion blog, On Faith. And conservative Web site WorldNetDaily offers up Thanksgiving-themed magnetic bumper stickers that counsel, "Remember to thank HIM"—perhaps an admonition to those who would merely thank their lucky stars.

Now there's a cheery bunch!

I belatedly thank my lucky stars for another year of stimulating, informative and gratifying conversation with the Daily Duck staff and regular contributors. Thank you all!


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Ah yes, all that is not primitively Baptist is empty and false. I remember that trope.

I won't say it is the world's most self-centered religion, but it is a contendah.

Only a Christian would take time out to carp about people who take time out to think about things that happened to them and be thankful that it was not all bad.

I continue to be thankful for modern medicine, without which I'd have been dead the last 29 years.

And, by the way, the Kindergarchy writer seems not to be among the churchly. No doubt in some of the U-U influenced churches it's all for the children, but at least as I remember Catholicism, Christmas was not. Easter especially not.

November 23, 2007 8:19 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Here, Here, or is it, Hear, Hear? Anyway Duck ditto to your sentiments thanking the DD gang for being there whenever I called.

I've been playing with this game, I found over at ace.

After a long time and a sore thumb, my highest score was a pathetic 277. I have renewed admiration for gamesters.

November 23, 2007 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, Duck, you are really taking lessons from the enemy, aren't you? I'm quite prepared to listen when you guys tell us you can be every bit as moral as those irksome religious, but every bit as thankful too? Come Christmas I imagine you'll be insisting you can be every bit as reverent.

Still, I think you've got a great idea there for one of those Hollywood epics that update history to conform to modern sensibilities. The Mayflower lands at Plymouth and all the exhausted, hungry Puritans gather onshore, drop to their knees and thank their lucky stars.

November 23, 2007 10:14 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

According to Morison, the first English service of thanksgiving in America was in Newfoundland around 1584 (I forget the exact date), and they were thankful for having found gold, which turned out to be pyrites.

Some revisionist script could be made from that.

November 23, 2007 11:48 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

I love your sentiments on kinderarchy...couldn't agree with you more...Its especially obvious in the manner by which my daughter dotes on her children and assumes i feel the same way...and for that matter other grandparents. blech!

January 21, 2008 12:30 PM  

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