Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I give thanks every day for my blessings, but to have a day set aside for thanks giving is truly special. Knowing many (if not all) Americans celebrate by remembering all the good things and wonderful people in their lives for which they are thankful adds to the festivity.
I decided to look into the roots of the celebration, and this is what I learned. According to some scholars, before coming to the new world, the Pilgrims lived for a decade among the Sephareic Jews in Holland. Holland was considered a safe haven from religious persecution at the time.
The Pilgrims, being devout Calvinist and Puritans considered themselves as “new Israel”. I can see where they likely learned that Sukkot commemorated Israel’s deliverance from the religious persecution in ancient Egypt and thought of it as a parallel to their own situation.
After they immigrated to the promised land of America, it is not surprising to me that the Pilgrims may have considered the festival of Sukkot when planning their own celebration. The Pilgrims considered their perilous journey to the new world as a type of exodus and wanted to associate their new celebration to the appropriate Biblical holiday.
It is interesting to me that the Jewish observance of their holiday always falls on Thursday and there is a special prayer of “Thanksgiving” before eating the meal. It is also interesting to note that the Hebrew word for turkey is tarnegol hodu, literally “Indian chicken”. Is it a happy coincidence that we customarily eat turkey on thanksgiving?
We all have times of ups and downs. We all have something and someone (probably more than one someone) to be thankful for. My Thanksgiving wish for all my friends and family is well expressed in this:
Cherokee Prayer Blessing
May the Warm Winds of Heaven Blow softly upon your house.
May the Great Spirit Bless all who enter there.