November 30, 2011 Edition

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Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has come and gone, the turkey has become leftovers, the pumpkin pie has been eaten down to the last crumb and even the cranberries have finally all disappeared. As a feast, Thanksgiving has no rival, it is the only American feast day where the whole purpose of the celebration began as an expression of gratefulness for the food and to those who had helped raise, gather and prepare it.

All those long years ago when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags feasted together, the celebration was certainly different than today's idea of a lavish spread.

The food was whatever game and fish they had caught that week, wild berries and nuts gathered from the woods and the grains and vegetables from the crops they had raised.

Cooking was limited to whatever methods could be used with a wood fire. There were no microwaves, no convection ovens, or gas ranges with variable temperatures. Yet they produced a magnificent meal.

That first Thanksgiving Day celebrated having enough food stored to get through the winter. The small group thanked God for the bounty they had and the Wampanoags for teaching them how to survive.

Though the food was certainly different than that of today's celebration, it was prepared with the same desire as today's cooks. It is a curious truth that once the plates are filled and the forks lifted, the absolute silence that falls across the table is the most sought after compliment. If the diner is too busy eating to talk, the meal is a success.

Thanksgiving has changed somewhat over the years. For many it is a celebration of family. Thanksgiving is the day for as many of the far-flung members as possible to gather around a table to celebrate the year that is fast approaching an end.

It is a time to celebrate the spiritual, as well as the material, and express our gratitude for what we have.

Eating together is historically an act of peace, friendship and loyalty. It is an old belief that once two people have broken bread together they can no longer be enemies. Whether or not that can really happen, it is a wonderful concept. Though it could lead to forced feeding.

To gather at the table and share a meal is one of our most treasured customs, one that many of us don't get to experience enough.

The dinner table for many families is the center of family time. It is where news is shared, manners are learned and the art of conversation can be taught.

Thanksgiving could well be a near perfect holiday. It is about being thankful, it is about sharing, it is about knowing that a body needs more than food for nourishment. It is most of all about knowing that once you have broken bread together you have expressed the willingness to be a part of the family.

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