God loves a good celebration. There are currently twelve Jewish holidays annually that have origins in the Old Testament as celebrations set up by God, and indeed, commanded by God. It’s as if God told his people, “You will stop working. You will eat, drink and be merry. You will celebrate life, family and all that I have given you to enjoy on this earth. I’m setting up these traditions for you so you will put them on your calendar and keep them every year as I have commanded you.” Gosh, I guess we have no choice but to have a good time!
The point is, though Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, the idea of holidays to cease from your work and mark what God has done, appreciate what you have, and most of all, celebrate your relationships, was something God originated. And we have fewer of these on our secular calendar than on a Jewish one, so we should take advantage of what we have, and use them as God intended holidays and celebrations to be. They are holidays — holy days — where celebration and thanksgiving is to be considered sacred.
And there’s more. Most Jewish holidays are multi-day events lasting three to seven days. The first thanksgiving in 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth to celebrate the year’s first harvest, lasted three days. (And most likely did not have turkey on the table. The Wampanoag went hunting and brought back three deer for the feast, so venison was the meat of choice for that first Thanksgiving. Turkeys came later,)
So as you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, keep in mind you are doing a holy thing. Notice what you do. Mark it as being important. Be intentional about renewing relationships, about thanking God for what you have, and celebrating life and love.
These celebrations, as holy days sanctioned — however pagan — by God, are times when we answer the T.S. Elliot question: “Where is the life we have lost in living?”
“Here,” we answer, around the table or wherever and however we gather, “right here.” Look everyone in the face and say, “Right here is the life we choose not to lose in living.”