Would I be a Christian without Thanksgiving?
Christopher Columbus Day is October 10th; however, it is no longer a holiday in the state of Colorado. Instead, this year, it was replaced with Frances Xavier Cabrini Day. This came as a shock to me as a former Colorado resident. I had no idea who this person was or why they would emerge to become more important than Columbus in America.
Frances Cabrini was born in Milan, Italy, in 1850. She founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1880. Her directive from Pope Leo XIII was to go to New York and help Italian immigrants in the United States. Cabrini and her sisters began their mission in New York in 1889 as they organized and established schools and orphanages. She died in Chicago in 1917 and was canonized as the first United States Citizen by Pope Pius XII on July 7, 1946. While I acknowledge the good work done by Cabrini, I question the timing of her memorialization as a holiday, especially when it is touted as “the first paid state holiday in the nation that recognizes a woman” Cabrini Day. Instead of replacing Columbus, perhaps she could have had her own day instead.
Christopher Columbus has been a household name associated with Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. In recent years, the debate surfaced about if Columbus really did discover America. Some say Columbus did not discover America because, upon his 1492 arrival, the Native Americans already inhabited the land. Others say he never got close to the United States. Instead, the Royal Museums Greenwich wrote, “He was the first European to sight the Bahamas archipelago, and then the island later named Hispaniola.” He also traveled to Central and South America, but not North America. In these situations, I put on my critical thinking hat and question how I would know the truth. To do so, I would need to see his journals and have hard evidence to know where he traveled and what he found.
I must admit that I am a bit curious as to why this debate is surfacing 530 years after the fact. Surely someone would have questioned the truth long before the passing of five centuries. As a Native American descendant, I do agree that he did not “discover” America because the Native Americans were already here. Despite this debate, I still believe Thanksgiving is a holiday worth celebrating in America.
This year, however, the media is stating that 1-in-4 Americans plan to skip Thanksgiving in 2022. While the excuse may be financial concerns and inflation, I wonder if there is more to this story.
The traditional Thanksgiving meal changed in 2007 when the popular television show Friends used the word “Friendsgiving.” This promoted the idea of spending time with friends instead of or in addition to family around the holiday, and many changed the menu from the traditional turkey dinner to new items, like pizza or pasta. Friendsgiving became even more popular in 2011 when Bailey’s Irish Cream used the word in an advertisement, and the television show The Real Housewives of New Jersey used it in an episode. These three events show the power of influence and how it can quickly change or reshape the culture of a nation.
At the core of Thanksgiving, it is a time of coming together and celebrating. I can imagine the first Thanksgiving Day with Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting together at one table and sharing each other’s food. It was a time of putting aside differences and coming together as human beings. Oh, how I long for a day when we can do this once again. Instead of debating who should be celebrated or arguing who was first, I pray we can humble ourselves to invite our family and friends to come together for a time of prayer, counting our blessings, and togetherness.
This month we are counting our blessings and positioning our attitude toward gratitude. How are you thankful for Thanksgiving Day and the act of counting our blessings?
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