Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Chestertonian Thanksgiving

    The Americans have established a Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers reached America. The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day; to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England. I know that this is still regarded as a historical heresy, by those who have long ceased to worry about a religious heresy. For while these persons still insist that the Pilgrim Fathers were champions of religious liberty, nothing is more certain than the fact that an ordinary modern liberal, sailing with them, would have found no liberty, and would have intensely disliked all that he found of religion. Even Thanksgiving Day itself, though it is now kept in a most kindly and charming fashion by numbers of quite liberal and large-minded Americans, was originally intended, I believe, as a sort of iconoclastic expedient for destroying the celebration of Christmas. The Puritans everywhere had a curious and rabid dislike of Christmas; which does not encourage me, for one, to develop a special and spiritual fervour for Puritanism. Oddly enough, however, the Puritan tradition in America has often celebrated Thanksgiving Day by often eliminating the Christmas Pudding, but preserving the Christmas Turkey. I do not know why, unless the name of Turkey reminded them of the Prophet of Islam, who was also the first Prophet of Prohibition.
Thus spake G. K. Chesterton, quoted by Matthew Palardy, who also explains that "Squanto was Catholic" — Thanksgiving for Catholics. (Elena Maria Vidal has more on this, with a link noting that "[t]he religious 'persecution' they came here to flee consisted mostly of their determination to purge the remnants of Catholicism from the established Church of England" — The True Story of Thanksgiving.) Despite what is quoted and linked to above, I confess to loving the holiday.

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Blogger Matthew Palardy said...

Thanks for the link. Indeed, in spite of the Puritan origins, I can't help but confess enjoying any day in which there is a banquet either.

2:59 AM  
Blogger Benjamin Ulledalen said...

Although I have been pondering this quote from Chesterton for the past few Thanksgivings and find it clever and agree with it, I am not ready to do away with a good excuse to have a feast with family, as well as possibly attend church. Compared to the rest of the World both now and in the past, we Americas seem to have a dearth of holidays.

I also have mixed feelings about Christmas decorations. Often times they are put up in Advent. While it is incorrect according to the Church calender, I do welcome early Christmas decorations in businesses and the like. I like to think of a "secular holiday season" (oximoron, I know) as distinct from Advent and Chrismas. Although Christmas has been hijacked, decorations, lights, and pine can be nice improvements to our drab architecture and ugly urban environment.

Happy Thanksgiving, whether you are celebrating in Korea or not!

11:22 AM  
Blogger elena maria vidal said...

Thanks for the link! We just had a lavish andd merry Thanksgiving dinner. Kind of the last hurrah before Advent starts on Sunday.....

1:26 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Mr. Uledalen, I confess to having put up a Christmas tree with the family on Thanksgiving Day. I live far from home, and I like to extend the season as long as possible. Next year, I need to plan ahead with an Advent Wreath.

Mrs. Vidal, thinking of Thanksgiving as "the last hurrah before Advent starts" never dawned on me, and seems an appropriate American inculturation into the seasonal nature of the Catholic Faith. Next marker, Our Lady of Guadalupe...

Living in Korea, without access to turkey (at under $150 delivered from a hotel in Seoul) or extended (American) family, I really missed this holiday this year.

Koreans have their own Thanksgving Day, celebrated with the Harvest Moon and honoring ancestors, which I have really come to love. Like any good holiday, food is a central focus.

2:56 AM  

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.