Saturday, November 15, 2008


I was going to use this week’s post to discuss my take on the 2008 presidential elections. The recent media and internet diatribe and the dissing of Palin by supposed McCain staffers have me totally disgusted. It certainly appears that all that needs to be said – has been said. I can’t offer anything else. Obama is now the President-Elect and deserves our respect and attention. Let’s get behind him and pull our nation through one of the most challenging periods in our history. To do anything else at this point would be petty, counter productive and I would recommend following John McCain’s lead. Yes, I think that Senator Clinton would be a fine Secretary of State…

So what do we talk about? Well, I engaged a post last year that expounded on the sentimentality and faux history that surrounds that most American of traditions - Thanksgiving. I attempted to dispel that myth and some of you have expressed support and a desire to see another comment. Well, here it is somewhat amended from my 2007 offering.

I just watched The History of Thanksgiving on The History Channel hosted by CBS Early Show host, Harry Smith. For the most part, he did a good job but then ended the program by noting this grand celebration's date on the last Thursday in November (Yikes!). They did their best to dispel all the old myths about the holiday and then blew it at the end!

Despite all the myths, Plimouth Plantation, the ultimate authority, reflects that the truth is the Pilgrims never celebrated what we now refer to as “Thanksgiving.” They did have a great three day secular “harvest feast” (Samhain anyone?) in 1621 (maybe around November 11?) with the Wampanoag First Nation (who brought most of the food) though they never repeated it at any point in their history. They never called it Thanksgiving and Pilgrim men never wore those black steeple hats with a buckle, black breeches, square white collar and cuffs and wide buckled belts.

Notwithstanding George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, we probably wouldn’t have this celebration were it not for a Mrs. Sarah Joespha Hale whose lobbying finally prompted Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, the last Thursday in November (11-30). The celebration of Thanksgiving on the next to the last Thursday in November was Theodore Roosevelt’s commercially inspired 1939 idea. In 1941 Congress declared Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November where it now proudly reposes.

Thanks to the Canadian Parliament, Thanksgiving has been formally and officially celebrated in Canada since 1957 on the second Monday in October. The Canadian Thanksgiving traces its roots to the old European farming custom of celebrating and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. Wikipedia reflects that the first known Thanksgiving celebration on Canadian shores was in 1578 hosted by a European explorer named Martin Frobisher. Frobisher celebrated his good fortune upon reaching Labrador and Newfoundland and surviving the travails of sea travel. We need note that not so ironically the Americans who remained loyal to England (they were legion) during our Revolutionary War brought many traditions with them to include their Thanksgiving holiday. In some provinces the celebration has great religious overtones though it is perceived my many as a secular celebration. The Canadian proclamation reads in part, “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.”

Whatever its origins (secular or religious) in North America, Thanksgiving has evolved into a festive celebration of Family & Friends and a time to reflect on Life, express gratitude for our blessings and recognize the opportunities afforded to all free men to pursue their own destiny. This observance is not the exclusive domain of some alleged American Aristocracy, rather an inclusive celebration for all those that choose to embrace its tenets. We should never fail to pause at least once a year, take a deep breath and celebrate the blessings of Family and Friends for yet another twelve months.
In the Scottish Community we have a great habit of saying the names of our ancestors and our recently departed Friends and Family usually on the occasion of our many Scottish Festivals & Highland Games (Flowers of The Forest). On high occasions in a place of honor we will set out an empty plate, silverware and glass representing those who are no longer among the living or cannot attend the function. They are, then, with us in spirit. Thanksgiving seems most appropriate for this tradition.

All of this comes from a grand Mayflower descendent. My heroes growing up were Myles Standish and John Alden. I strongly suspect that The Society of Mayflower Descendents really do understand the reality of this celebration though some of their members seem unwilling to relinquish their Thanksgiving pedigree.

Hey, thanks for being part of my Life and have a safe and prosperous holiday.

Yours, Aye

Ned Buxton

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