That’s how many birds Americans will eat this Thursday, plus or minus a few hundred thousand. But we are a big nation, with a lot of people, and Thanksgiving is important.
Benjamin Franklin advocated making the wild turkey our national bird, arguing that turkeys were uniquely American. But the Bald Eagle won out. For 364 days, the Eagle soars alone. But on that one day, the Turkey is king. Yes, we kill and eat the king, but still, and we were never going to eat the eagles anyway.
Alexander Hamilton said, “No citizen of the United States shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Well said. But it was President Lincoln who, in 1863, facilitated a national day of Thanksgiving, making it a holiday. Here we are, 152 years later, preparing to roast, fry, and smoke 45, 000,000 turkeys.
It’s a meal shared with family and friends. The Pilgrims shared their feast with Wampanoag native Americans and it lasted thee days.
Our tables will be laid with traditional side dishes like cranberries and pumpkin pie, which the Pilgrims didn’t have. But they had turkey, at least we think they did. William Bradford recorded in his journal that the colonists hunted fowl and venison for the feast. He also mentioned that they hunted wild turkey in the autumn of the year.
Certainly they were grateful and had much in which to be thankful. They lost nearly half their colony that first winter. But the colonists had a profound belief that God led them here, to find all that is best in a life lived in freedom and in obedience to Scripture.
So how are we to relate? Few of us have sacrificed as much. Our Thanksgiving isn’t about surviving a bitter winter. It’s more about the blessings we’ve enjoyed. It’s a day off work and a gathering of our favorite people. Great amounts of great food with sweet fun, and football enjoyed with pie and ice cream.
But maybe, just maybe, it’s also about something else. Perhaps deep down in those places we don’t often access, Thanksgiving really is a God thing. The Lord led them across a violent sea, to an unknown future, to establish a new world. God led them here and we are richly blessed because of their faith and courage. Praise be to God!
In Part Two of this article, I will attempt to connect our hearts and minds to the greater meaning of Thanksgiving. Perhaps it is a God thing after all.
I’ll publish Part Two on Tuesday afternoon.