To many, Thanksgiving is merely the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Two hundred dollar televisions, discount hunting rifles and multitudes of cut rate toys mask a holiday that epitomizes the legacy of our great country.
Many believe that Thanksgiving began when the Pilgrims gave thanks at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. The roots of this holiday go back to the English Reformation and the year 1536. At that time there were 59 church holidays plus 52 Sundays when no one worked and some of the holidays were quite expensive. The holidays were reduced to 27 but later the Puritans moved to eliminate all holidays to include the elimination of Christmas and Easter. Instead the English holidays would be replaced by “days of Thanksgiving” to commemorate a special event. This would include surviving a natural disaster or human event such as giving thanks when England defeated the great Spanish Armada.
The Pilgrims had witnessed these “Thanksgivings” while living in England. The Pilgrims were prosecuted and went to Holland to practice their religion freely. Still they did not achieve the freedom they desired and instead of living within their own culture many of the Pilgrims began to assimilate into the Dutch life style. Finally the decision was made to leave the Europe that was the only home that the Pilgrims had known and take a chance on a new land to the west. The Pilgrims landed in America and following a difficult year they survived and had a good harvest. In the traditions of the Puritans and Pilgrims, a time was established to declare a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the good year, and thus our Thanksgiving was born under the star of a religious holiday. It is this same type of religious beliefs that time and time again were repeated during the forming of our most wonderful country. There was no one happening that suddenly exploded and a country was formed. Instead it was a culmination of numerous events and happenings, many that were religious based, that were finalized in 1776 when well educated men of immense leadership met to form the skeleton of a great nation.
Since our countries founding we have slowly shedded the religious artifacts that had so much influence on the laws and norms that formed our nation. We built our country on a mandate of separation of church and state and with the understanding that man was free to practice his own religion without impedance. The government guaranteed this and the government was empowered to intercede to insure this freedom was not infringed upon but was not empowered to force a religious belief on anyone. Unfortunately, a small number of individuals have taken the rights provided to the masses and in an attempt to display their individual power, flexed their muscles and disrupted public displays of religious celebration. Unfortunately this attack on American traditions went unchallenged for many years and it appeared that these celebrations of American Holidays; Christmas and Easter plus flag and patriotic displays and other symbols of America, would soon become figments of our imagination.
But relish in the thought that the pendulum may have stopped swinging and will soon begin to return to a more sensible and tolerant society. A society that allows each person to practice their religion and if a person does not want to participate in a religious ceremony, then that person is free to not participate. On the other hand, the celebrations that are a fiber of our country and have been for hundreds of years will be free to be openly performed and protests from individuals that override the desires of the majority will no longer be tolerated. This is beginning to be witnessed today.
At one time the saying of a prayer at a sporting event was considered to be unlawful. More and more schools are ignoring this and have taken the bold gesture to offer prayer prior to the game. It is a true expression of religious tolerance when two teams that had been foes minutes earlier kneel together following the games completions. Recently I attended lunch at a local corporation and the CEO proclaimed at the companies Thanksgiving meal that this company believed in tolerance for all religions but for the Thanksgiving meal he invited everyone that would like to join him to bow their heads for the blessing of the meal. A local high school not only offered a prayer but asked that the fans join in with reciting the Lords Prayer. More and more stores are changing their policy pertaining to greeting customers and are allowing their employees to wish a Merry Christmas.
As for me, Happy Thanksgiving everyone and in a week I will wish my Jewish friends Happy Hanukah just as I will wish my Moslem friends Happy Ramadan next June but for all my Christian friends I will find it especially heartwarming in a couple of weeks to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

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