Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Thanksgiving Paradox

My friend and fellow early American historian Andrew Wehrman  has dubbed Matthew Dennis's piece at The Conversation "the best of Thanksgiving essays written by an early American historian this year."  It is hard to argue with Andrew's assessment of Dennis's "Why Thanksgiving tells as story of American pluralism."

Here is a taste:

As Americans collectively shape the meaning of the occasion, they mold the meaning of America itself as a plural nation. They declare their national identity simply by gathering privately and eating turkey.
Inwardly focused but inclusive, often religious but nonsectarian, Thanksgiving does not exclude non-Christians or even nonbelievers. Thanksgiving is the time when Americans in the largest numbers reach out to the least fortunate in their communities through voluntary action and charitable contributions.
The holiday may be a great American paradox, but it is those apparent contradictions that have been critical to its enduring appeal, success and value.
Thanksgiving continues to offer appropriate lessons for America’s schoolchildren and us all.