Time doesn’t change our traditions much. People have been celebrating a form of thanksgiving to God for centuries now. Leviticus 23 teaches Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) was to be a time of bringing in the latter harvest.
David Stern says about the Feast of Tabernacles in The Jewish New Testament Commentary: “Families build booths of palm branches, partly open to the sky, to recall God’s providence toward Israel during the forty years of wandering in the desert and living in tents… The festival also celebrates the harvest, coming, as it does, at summer’s end, so that it is a time of thanksgiving.”
In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation recommending that Thursday November 26th of that year “be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation.” Thus the official proclamation of Thanksgiving Day.
On the home front, families have been preparing for that day in similar fashion. Centuries ago, I bet the Jewish ladies were preparing breads, vegetables, and other customary fare for several days before time. The children sensed something exciting afoot, and ran in and out of the house, sneaking bites of food when Moms weren’t looking, or were being sent on errands and chores for supplies. It was an important time both for individual families and for the national heritage. God set up the Jewish festivals for remembrance of their journey with Him through history. He knew how important that would be in keeping a people and their identity intact.
Similarly, we as a nation, need our heritage. We also need to appreciate what gratitude does for our very souls and the health of our nation. It has become secularized in some people’s thoughts, but the spiritual community understands that our provisions came from God, is sustained by God, and our hope remains in God for the future.
We, as individual families, need to go to “Grandma’s house,” and share the excitement felt by the Jewish families long ago. Relationships are built, sustained and deepened by the laughter, the smells, the food, the children running about (and even the football games). The women start their check-list a few days ahead. Who will bring what dishes? Will there be sugar-free pie for Pee-Paw? Will there be a designated person(s) to see that Uncle Harry doesn’t nip a drink or two too much? Don’t forget the ice, and where to store it?
It’s a lot or work, but worth every effort. I’m hoping everyone will have a happy and safe place to go, and loving people to share the Thanksgiving meal with. If you don’t, check out places where you can volunteer, or find another person that needs company and invite them to share a hamburger or something. It’s not the items involved but the love and gratitude shared.