Poll
Humanists should....
Celebrate "Thanksgiving" without much thought to the real history; after all, its really just about family, friends, and turkey! 2
Celebrate "Thanksgiving" by including in the dinner conversation the real history so as to give a more worldly, less ethno-centric meaning to a gathering which is otherwise merely an Anglo-American (racist) origin myth! 3
Don’t celebrate "Thanksgiving" at all, and instead note the National Day of Mourning! 3
No Opinion 0
Total Votes: 8
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"Thanksgiving"- a National Day of Mourning?
Posted: 23 November 2006 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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[b:bb17229d24]"Thanksgiving"- a National Day of Mourning?[/b:bb17229d24]

[i:bb17229d24](compiled from essays by James W. Loewen, Terri J Andrews and the website - http://www.pilgrimhall.org/daymourn.htm) [/i:bb17229d24]

[b:bb17229d24]Never before in the history of America has a subset of this country’s population been so misrepresented, lied about, and viciously condemned and criticized than the Native American Indians. Our own history books present a censored and false past that glorifies the "proud, pure and righteous" settlers, while stereotyping the original inhabitants as wild savages in war bonnets, running through the forest looking for food and scalping innocent children and women. Take a look through a child’s history book and you will often note an image of the pilgrims, colonists and pioneers that include log cabins, the pursuit of religious freedom and a strong sense of community. Often times, paintings of the Native Indians hiding behind trees with tomahawks, watching the unsuspecting Europeans, are wrongly depicted to children. This is a common thread woven through the fabric of American history - a lie that ties together a past built on stolen tradition and absent information retold in books authored by non-Native Americans.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect example of censorship and the rewriting of truth. A portrait painted of the friendly Indians and the openhearted pilgrims coming together to feast after a long, sorry winter is accepted and tolerated by the American community. But this portrait is not correct. The story is much deeper than that; so much deeper that the Native American Indian community calls this day - The National Day of Mourning - and stages rallies to protest the holiday. Their reasons are valid. The true story of Thanksgiving is not something a country should be proud of.

The first National Day of Mourning was held in 1970. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited Wampanoag leader Frank James to deliver a speech. When the text of Mr. James’ speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth "disinvited" him. That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning.

The Pilgrims of New England, who came to this country in 1620, were not simple refugees from England fighting against oppression and religious discrimination. They were political revolutionaries and part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the King of the Church of England. They were outcasts in their own country, plotting to take over the government, causing some of the settlers to become fugitives in their own country. These Puritan Pilgrims saw themselves as the "chosen elect", from the Bibles’ Book of Revelations and traveled to America to build "The Kingdom of God", also from Revelations. Strict with the scripture, they considered an enemy of anyone who did not follow suit. These beliefs were eventually transmitted to the other colonists, and the Puritan belief system quickly spread across the New England area.

Yes, the "Pilgrims" did come to America in 1620. Yes they were inapt to care for themselves due to the harshness of the winter and their lack of stored food and supplies. Yes, they did have a "feast."

They were NOT met by "friendly" Indians who waved them in from the banks or welcomed their arrival. The Native people did not trust the whites, having encountered such foreigners before and suffering severe consequences. The Natives took pity on the settlers and only a (very) few Native Americans were actually "friendly" to the newcomers. The Native community did not help the colonists because of a deep friendship, rather it was a custom of their culture and religion to help those who were in need. The two groups did NOT come together to celebrate the harvest, as friends, and rejoice in the "first" Thanksgiving. They were meeting to discuss land rights. Lastly, it was NOT the first Thanksgiving. An Autumnal harvest and banquet were a tradition of the Native people - a celebration that was a part of their culture for centuries.

In 1617, just before the Pilgrims landed, the process started in southern New England. A plague struck that made the Black Death pale by comparison.Today we think it was the bubonic plague, although pox and influenza are also candidates. British fishermen had been fishing off Massachusetts for decades before the Pilgrims landed. After filling their hulls with cod, they would set forth on land to get firewood and fresh water and perhaps capture a few Indians to sell into slavery in Europe.

On one of these expeditions they probably transmitted the illness to the people they met. Whatever it was, within three years this plague wiped out between 90 percent and 96 percent of the inhabitants of southern New England. The Indian societies lay devastated. Only "the twentieth person is scarce left alive," wrote British eyewitness Robert Cushman, describing a death rate unknown in all previous human experience. Unable to cope with so many corpses, survivors fled to the next tribe, carrying the infestation with them, so that Indians died who had never seen a white person.

John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague "miraculous." To a friend in England in 1634, he wrote:
[i:bb17229d24]"But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protect…."[/i:bb17229d24]

For many Native American Indians of present day, the traditional "Thanksgiving" holiday is not recognized as the Pilgrim/Indian day popularized in children’s history books; rather it is a day of sorrow and shame. Sorrow for the fallen lives of those who were lost so long ago, and shame for living in a country who honors people who used religion and self-righteousness to condone murder, treachery and slavery.

For the many in the Native community, "Thanksgiving" is a day to reflect on what has happened (past and present); to pray to the Creator that more people will know of the truth and show respect towards the fallen culture; to fast the body; to protest the commercialization of Thanksgiving; to share their time with the less fortunate in soup kitchens or shelters; and some take part in a family meal, honoring the spirit of Chief Massasoit and his initial charity and intentions of the Wampanoag Indians - who first came to initiate a peace agreement between them and the newcomers.

Celebrating the spirit of the holiday - without the propaganda that is attached, is a respectful way to share the day with the Native American people. Understanding the true historical significance of their contributions to the day, as well as what the consequences of their efforts led to be, is even more important.  Should we teach the truths about Thanksgiving? Or, like our textbooks, should we look the other way? Thanksgiving is full of embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the Native Americans to the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Our modern celebrations date back only to 1863; not until the 1890s did the Pilgrims get included in the tradition; no one even called them "Pilgrims" until the 1870s.

Plymouth Rock achieved ichnographic status only in the nineteenth century, when some enterprising residents of the town moved it down to the water so its significance as the "holy soil" the Pilgrims first touched might seem more plausible. The Rock has become a shrine, the Mayflower Compact a sacred text, and our textbooks play the same function as the Anglican BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, teaching us the rudiments of the civil religion of Thanksgiving.

Because Thanksgiving has roots in both Anglo and Native cultures, and
because of the interracial cooperation the first celebration enshrines, Thanksgiving might yet develop into a holiday that promotes tolerance and understanding. Its emphasis on Native foods provides a teachable moment, for natives of the Americas first developed half of the world’s food crops. Texts could tell this—only three even mention Indian foods—-and could also relate other contributions from Indian societies, from sports to political ideas.

The original Thanksgiving itself provides an interesting example: the Natives and newcomers spent the better part of three days showing each other their various recreations.

Origin myths do not come cheaply. To glorify the Pilgrims is dangerous. The genial omissions and false details our texts use to retail the Pilgrim legend promote Anglocentrism, which only handicaps us when dealing with all those whose culture is not Anglo. Surely, in history, "truth should be held sacred, at whatever cost."[/b:bb17229d24]

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Posted: 23 November 2006 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"Thanksgiving"- a National Day of Mourning?

“Thanksgiving”- a National Day of Mourning?

(compiled from essays by James W. Loewen, Terri J Andrews and the website - http://www.pilgrimhall.org/daymourn.htm)

Never before in the history of America has a subset of this country’s population been so misrepresented, lied about, and viciously condemned and criticized than the Native American Indians. Our own history books present a censored and false past that glorifies the “proud, pure and righteous” settlers, while stereotyping the original inhabitants as wild savages in war bonnets, running through the forest looking for food and scalping innocent children and women. Take a look through a child’s history book and you will often note an image of the pilgrims, colonists and pioneers that include log cabins, the pursuit of religious freedom and a strong sense of community. Often times, paintings of the Native Indians hiding behind trees with tomahawks, watching the unsuspecting Europeans, are wrongly depicted to children. This is a common thread woven through the fabric of American history - a lie that ties together a past built on stolen tradition and absent information retold in books authored by non-Native Americans.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect example of censorship and the rewriting of truth. A portrait painted of the friendly Indians and the openhearted pilgrims coming together to feast after a long, sorry winter is accepted and tolerated by the American community. But this portrait is not correct. The story is much deeper than that; so much deeper that the Native American Indian community calls this day - The National Day of Mourning - and stages rallies to protest the holiday. Their reasons are valid. The true story of Thanksgiving is not something a country should be proud of.

The first National Day of Mourning was held in 1970. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited Wampanoag leader Frank James to deliver a speech. When the text of Mr. James’ speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth “disinvited” him. That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning.

The Pilgrims of New England, who came to this country in 1620, were not simple refugees from England fighting against oppression and religious discrimination. They were political revolutionaries and part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the King of the Church of England. They were outcasts in their own country, plotting to take over the government, causing some of the settlers to become fugitives in their own country. These Puritan Pilgrims saw themselves as the “chosen elect”, from the Bibles’ Book of Revelations and traveled to America to build “The Kingdom of God”, also from Revelations. Strict with the scripture, they considered an enemy of anyone who did not follow suit. These beliefs were eventually transmitted to the other colonists, and the Puritan belief system quickly spread across the New England area.

Yes, the “Pilgrims” did come to America in 1620. Yes they were inapt to care for themselves due to the harshness of the winter and their lack of stored food and supplies. Yes, they did have a “feast.”

They were NOT met by “friendly” Indians who waved them in from the banks or welcomed their arrival. The Native people did not trust the whites, having encountered such foreigners before and suffering severe consequences. The Natives took pity on the settlers and only a (very) few Native Americans were actually “friendly” to the newcomers. The Native community did not help the colonists because of a deep friendship, rather it was a custom of their culture and religion to help those who were in need. The two groups did NOT come together to celebrate the harvest, as friends, and rejoice in the “first” Thanksgiving. They were meeting to discuss land rights. Lastly, it was NOT the first Thanksgiving. An Autumnal harvest and banquet were a tradition of the Native people - a celebration that was a part of their culture for centuries.

In 1617, just before the Pilgrims landed, the process started in southern New England. A plague struck that made the Black Death pale by comparison.Today we think it was the bubonic plague, although pox and influenza are also candidates. British fishermen had been fishing off Massachusetts for decades before the Pilgrims landed. After filling their hulls with cod, they would set forth on land to get firewood and fresh water and perhaps capture a few Indians to sell into slavery in Europe.

On one of these expeditions they probably transmitted the illness to the people they met. Whatever it was, within three years this plague wiped out between 90 percent and 96 percent of the inhabitants of southern New England. The Indian societies lay devastated. Only “the twentieth person is scarce left alive,” wrote British eyewitness Robert Cushman, describing a death rate unknown in all previous human experience. Unable to cope with so many corpses, survivors fled to the next tribe, carrying the infestation with them, so that Indians died who had never seen a white person.

John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague “miraculous.” To a friend in England in 1634, he wrote:
“But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protect….”

For many Native American Indians of present day, the traditional “Thanksgiving” holiday is not recognized as the Pilgrim/Indian day popularized in children’s history books; rather it is a day of sorrow and shame. Sorrow for the fallen lives of those who were lost so long ago, and shame for living in a country who honors people who used religion and self-righteousness to condone murder, treachery and slavery.

For the many in the Native community, “Thanksgiving” is a day to reflect on what has happened (past and present); to pray to the Creator that more people will know of the truth and show respect towards the fallen culture; to fast the body; to protest the commercialization of Thanksgiving; to share their time with the less fortunate in soup kitchens or shelters; and some take part in a family meal, honoring the spirit of Chief Massasoit and his initial charity and intentions of the Wampanoag Indians - who first came to initiate a peace agreement between them and the newcomers.

Celebrating the spirit of the holiday - without the propaganda that is attached, is a respectful way to share the day with the Native American people. Understanding the true historical significance of their contributions to the day, as well as what the consequences of their efforts led to be, is even more important.  Should we teach the truths about Thanksgiving? Or, like our textbooks, should we look the other way? Thanksgiving is full of embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the Native Americans to the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Our modern celebrations date back only to 1863; not until the 1890s did the Pilgrims get included in the tradition; no one even called them “Pilgrims” until the 1870s.

Plymouth Rock achieved ichnographic status only in the nineteenth century, when some enterprising residents of the town moved it down to the water so its significance as the “holy soil” the Pilgrims first touched might seem more plausible. The Rock has become a shrine, the Mayflower Compact a sacred text, and our textbooks play the same function as the Anglican BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, teaching us the rudiments of the civil religion of Thanksgiving.

Because Thanksgiving has roots in both Anglo and Native cultures, and
because of the interracial cooperation the first celebration enshrines, Thanksgiving might yet develop into a holiday that promotes tolerance and understanding. Its emphasis on Native foods provides a teachable moment, for natives of the Americas first developed half of the world’s food crops. Texts could tell this—only three even mention Indian foods—-and could also relate other contributions from Indian societies, from sports to political ideas.

The original Thanksgiving itself provides an interesting example: the Natives and newcomers spent the better part of three days showing each other their various recreations.

Origin myths do not come cheaply. To glorify the Pilgrims is dangerous. The genial omissions and false details our texts use to retail the Pilgrim legend promote Anglocentrism, which only handicaps us when dealing with all those whose culture is not Anglo. Surely, in history, “truth should be held sacred, at whatever cost.”

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Posted: 23 November 2006 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on a different date (October 9). Also, I grew up in Czechoslovakia and Spain, so Thanksgiving doesn’t mean anything to me. When answering the poll I thought about Christmas. I decided to tell my kids that we celebrate Christmas because on that day Jesus was born (he wasn’t, I know). We celebrate his birthday not because he was “the son of god,” but because “he told us” to love one another (even though he meant that one Jew should love another Jew.) But hey!, we could be celebrating the birth of the devil himself and my kids couldn’t care less, as long as they get their Ninja Turtles, Transformers or the Hot Wheel cars.

Sorry, Barry. I know this is totally irrelevant to your post. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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Posted: 24 November 2006 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well, I can only say that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It need not be taken in a religious sense at all, and I am always happy to thank people for the help they have provided me and those close to me.

In that spirit, thanks to all on this forum for the enlightening and trenchant discussions over the past months!

:wink:

Also, I do enjoy a good dinner with family.

The actual history of the relations between natives and Europeans is also something interesting and important to study; but it seems to me we can celebrate giving thanks for help without necessarily endorsing any particular story or myth about America’s founding.

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Posted: 25 November 2006 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Re: TG

[quote author=“Barry”]So no Pilgrim hats and bogus stories in your household, huh Doug?

No, none.

LOL  LOL

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Posted: 25 November 2006 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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smile

Doug:

No, None
LOL  LOL

Good for you!

:D LOL  :wink:  raspberry

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Posted: 26 November 2006 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Robert Jensen wrote a provocative essay about Thanksgiving: A National Day of Atonement.

I’ve read his books and many articles, and have listened to his interviews. He seems to have humanist values.

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Posted: 26 November 2006 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Jensen’s food for thought…

Thanks for passing on Jensen’s essay! 

After reading the folks whose writings I compiled for the original posting on this site re TG, I voted in the poll for:

Celebrate “Thanksgiving” by including in the dinner conversation the real history so as to give a more worldly, less ethno-centric meaning to a gathering which is otherwise merely an Anglo-American (racist) origin myth!

At the TG dinner I attended, when no-one wanted to “ruin” the dinner by talking about historical reasons for the gathering (at least until long after TG was over), I got the distinct impression that even among those who would find this history disturbing and important, almost everyone at the table would vote in this poll for:

Celebrate “Thanksgiving” without much thought to the real history; after all, its really just about family, friends, and turkey!

Then, even if they read about the truth of TG, they’d be back next year for more TG fun! 

This sad truth about (white) American culture (and those non Native American people-of-color who absurdly also celebrate TG), lead me to find real humanism in the Jensen essay.  So even though I cannot change my on-line poll choice, I would like - for the record - to change my choice to:

Don’t celebrate “Thanksgiving” at all, and instead note the National Day of Mourning!

No more Thanksgiving for me.

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Posted: 27 November 2006 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I listened to the first episode of the Humanist Network News podcast this morning and heard the following lyrics to Uncle Dave’s Grace.

UNCLE DAVE’S GRACE

Uncle Dave’s Grace:  lyrics by Peter Berryman, music by Lou Berryman

“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” Thanksgiving day, Uncle Dave was our guest

He reads the Progressive which makes him depressed

We asked Uncle Dave if he’d like to say grace,

A dark desolation crept over his face

“Thanks,” he began as he gazed at his knife,

“To poor Mr. Turkey for living his life

All crowded and cramped in a great metal shed

Where life was a drag then they cut off his head”

“Thanks,” he went on, “for the grapes in my wine

Picked by sick women of seventy-nine

Scrambling all morning for bunch after bunch

Then brushing the pesticides off of their lunch

Thanks for the stuffing all heaped on my fork

Shiny with sausage descended from pork

I think of the trucks full of full of pigs that I see

And can’t help imagine what they think of me”

Continuing, “I’d like to thank if you please

Our salad bowl hacked out of tropical trees

And for this mahogany table and chair

We thank all the jungles that used to be there

For cream in our coffee and milk in our mugs,

We thank all the cows full of hormones and drugs

Whose calves are removed at a very young age

And force-fed as veal in a minuscule cage”

“Oh thanks for the furnace that heats up these rooms

And thanks for the rich fossil fuel it consumes

Corrupting the atmosphere ounce after ounce

But we’re warm and toasty and that is what counts

I’m grateful,” he said, “for these clothes on my back

Lovely and comfy and cheap off the rack

Fashioned in warehouses noisy and cold

In China by seamstresses seven years old”

“And thanks for my silverware setting that shines

In memory of miners who died in the mines

Worn down by the shovelling of tailings in piles

Whose runoff destroys all the rivers for miles

We thank the reactors for our chandelier

Although the plutonium won’t disappear

For hundreds of decades it still will be there

But a few more Chernobyls and who’s gonna care?”

Sighed Uncle Dave, “though there’s more to be told

The wine’s getting warm and the bird’s getting cold”

And with that he sat down as he mumbled again

“Thank you for everything, amen”

We felt so guilty when he was all thru

It seemed there was one of two things we could do

Live without food, in the nude, in a cave,

Or next year have someone say grace besides Dave.

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Posted: 28 November 2006 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The controversy about “celebrating” a holiday that seriously misrepresents history raises a couple of more general issues I though the community might want to comment on.
1) As an agnostic/atheist I am grateful for any secular holiday I can get. I think special days marked by historic rituals and providing opportunities to reflect on life and family/community relationships and a break from the obsessive driving economic activity we Americans are so good at are beneficial psychologically and culturally. I, for one, applaud the secularisation of Christmas. I’m all for co-opting any and all holidays. And, frankly, deliberate, de novo creation of holidays (e.g. Humanlight) tends not to be very effective, at least for me,  since the ritual and traditional character of “real” holidays are missing. So I enjoy Thanksgiving. How does one capture the positive about the observance without denying the brutal history of European conquest of North American AND without turning it into a day of mourning, which effectively defeats the other purposes of the holiday?
2) What, if any, statute of limitations can be placed on historical injustices? There seems to be much evil perpetrated in the world over antipathies inherited from (or justified by) injustices centuries past. Must all the cultural descendants of the involved groups die out before the anger and antipathy resolve? Or can any symbolic act of atonement or recognition truly end the conflict? I acknowledge that my ancestors participated in the genocide against Native Americans (and I have historical records for specific individuals that illustrate it). So must I and my child and X generations of my descendants atone for it? Just on Thanksgiving or every day? Or will it only cease to matter when the America built on the genocide no longer exists?

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Posted: 28 November 2006 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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TG

2) What, if any, statute of limitations can be placed on historical injustices? There seems to be much evil perpetrated in the world over antipathies inherited from (or justified by) injustices centuries past. Must all the cultural descendants of the involved groups die out before the anger and antipathy resolve? Or can any symbolic act of atonement or recognition truly end the conflict? I acknowledge that my ancestors participated in the genocide against Native Americans (and I have historical records for specific individuals that illustrate it). So must I and my child and X generations of my descendants atone for it? Just on Thanksgiving or every day? Or will it only cease to matter when the America built on the genocide no longer exists?

Interesting thoughts!

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Posted: 12 February 2012 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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“What you mean, Paleface?”
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From the series, “Churches ad hoc”

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Posted: 12 February 2012 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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We call it our ‘Harvest Festival’ dinner in my house. It is a time to reflect on accomplishments made in the year, and look forward to the next, and gather together with family and loved ones. There is no mention of ‘Thanksgiving’, they know how I feel about it (it is a myth, and the NA were on their way to slaughter) etc, etc.

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Posted: 12 February 2012 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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This is a six year old thread. What is going on here, Herman?

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Posted: 13 February 2012 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of thankfulness
as in the traditional Harvest Festival.
When the difficult non-stop work was done and folks had a bit of free time to reflect on their blessings before hunkering down for a hard winter.

The Pilgrim thing is pretty much just a secondary overlay -
and yes much ugliness is overlaid upon that part of it
but still doesn’t detract from the need to once in awhile stop and appreciated the good fortunes one has.

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