Tradition versus Truth Are You like Turkeys Being Lead to the Slaughter
Today I’m thankful for so many things. I have a loving family who supports me in everything I do. My friends are loving, supportive and fun. My business is growing daily. We have a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. Food is abundant on our table unlike so many homeless families today.
However, traditions are not among things that I am thankful for. Why not? It’s easiest explained by sharing a short story with you. This story was a wake-up call for me. I hope learning the truth about tradition helps you to avoid being like a turkey lead to the slaughter.
My family’s tradition
As far back as I can remember my family celebrated many holidays including Thanksgiving. I remember my aunts, uncles and cousins driving in to spend the day celebrating our family tradition. Mom and Grandma would spend countless hours in the kitchen cooking up the yearly feast. Many happy memories were made. There was laughter and even some tears, too. It always bothered me that our big family could eat the feast in less time than it took my mom to set the table.
I remember times when it was a burden on our struggling family to buy the traditional foods everyone came to expect. Although Mom tried to hide it I’d often see her crying. Our stretched budget would pay the price for splurging on one family tradition – the Thanksgiving feast. Grandma tried to make up for it by providing more than enough food, yet my parents knew the truth and it hurt. Yes, there were good memories but there were times when I wish I weren’t at the table too. Do you have memories like those of family traditions, too?
Fast forward twenty plus years to a few years ago. A good friend posed a question that I couldn’t answer off the top of my head. That question was “Why do YOU celebrate Thanksgiving”?
The only answer I could think of was somewhat of a coined phrase “Because we always have”. That question grew into a series of questions and events that lead me to do some deep thinking. I had some serious research to do about what Thanksgiving really is, why we celebrate it and if I wanted to continue to support an age old tradition.
Let me explain a little better in person …
The Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving was held in the fall of 1621, sometime between September 21 and November 11, and was a three-day feast. This feast was a celebration of a successful harvest. The Pilgrims invited the Native Americans, the local Wampanoag tribe to join them. They ate fowl and deer for certain and most likely also ate berries, fish, clams, plums, and boiled pumpkin. These foods were what they had harvested and had available.
History Books Leave Out Rest of Story
This is where the story takes a turn. It was at this point in my research that I started to question many traditions we had been taught in school. The history books left out the rest of the story. I was about to lose trust in a system and the people I thought were telling me the truth.
The Pilgrim’s thanksgiving feast was not an annual event. No, instead those early pilgrims and native people gave thanks daily and only occasional feasts were held for events like the end of a drought, a battle that ended or a harvest.
In October 1789 President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26th to be a national day of thanksgiving and prayer. Yet even after that declaration it was not an annual celebration or holiday tradition.
Author Inspired Thanksgiving
You probably remember the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. The author was a woman by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale. She spent over 40 years pushing for a national annual holiday tradition Thanksgiving. It was during the years leading up to the Civil War, she saw the holiday tradition as a way to put hope and belief in the nation and the constitution. So, when the United States was torn in half during the Civil War and President Lincoln was searching for a way to bring the nation together, he discussed the matter with Sarah Hale.
Thanksgiving becomes a holiday tradition
President Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a day of thanksgiving and praise on October 3, 1863. Thanksgiving became a national holiday, an annual holiday tradition with a specific date.
Succeeding presidents honored the tradition and annually issued their own Thanksgiving Proclamation. They declared the last Thursday in November as the day of Thanksgiving, a holiday tradition. This continued for 75 years after Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation.
However, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not. In 1939, the last Thursday of November was going to be November 30. Retailers complained to FDR that this only left 24 shopping days to Christmas and begged him to push Thanksgiving just one week earlier. It was determined that most people do their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and retailers hoped that with an extra week of shopping, people would buy more.
So when FDR announced his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1939, he declared the date of Thanksgiving to be Thursday, November 23, the second-to-last Thursday of the month.
Holiday tradition changes cause confusion
Now the country and its citizens were confused. The new date for Thanksgiving messed up calendars and they were now incorrect. Schools had planned vacations and tests around the old set holiday date. Now they had to reschedule the whole school calendar. Thanksgiving had been a big day for football games, as it is today, so the game schedule had to be looked at and changed, too.
Political opponents of President Roosevelt and many others questioned the president’s right to change the holiday. They stressed the breaking of what has happened in the past would mean to tradition. Many believed that changing a cherished holiday just to make businesses happy was not a good enough reason for change.
In spite of all the best laid plans, confusion and controversy the president’s plan didn’t work. A day set aside to bring families and the country together became a day that pulled people apart. The proclamation set the precedent to host a big feast the retail community started advertising to draw more consumer dollars when spending was at an all-time low.
Time for honest assessment and decision time
This research provided me with the answers I was looking for.
- The fact that the pilgrims were thankful and celebrated with the natives was a neighborly good deed and choice.
- Choosing to have a family get together to celebrate family, life and happiness is also a great reason to enjoy a delicious meal together.
However, dedicating a day to celebrate to increase profits for merchants at the expense of a family’s finances…I’m now convinced that is not good behavior or one I choose to continue to take part in.
The combination of untruths with the uncovered truth has proven to me why I should not take part in a holiday tradition just because my family always has done so. My choice for celebrating has now centered on truth instead of tradition. The origin of any holiday should be explored in totality and thought put into our personal decisions; not just because we always have.
Life is a precious gift, one given to each of us every day that we wake and take our first conscious breath. Celebrate thanksgiving for all you have each day, 365 days a year. Spend wisely the resources you are blessed with through your job, business or a combination of both. Honor your family with your time because you want to not because you are obligated to attend some celebration proclaimed years ago for selfish reasons.
Let truth set you free and tradition fall by the side as you enjoy the gift you have been given this day.
If this has given you food for thought, made you stop to think about your family traditions or you know of someone who might enjoy it please…pass this along. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.