What first brought this to my attention was PBS. I was watching Clifford with the kids, and I recognized the story as one of the Clifford books we have - Clifford's First Thanksgiving. So it was a shock as I watched it to see that they never mentioned the word "Thanksgiving" once in the whole show. They were going to Grandma's house for Fall Feast, and they kept wishing everyone a happy "fall feast." What in the world is Fall Feast?! It makes Thanksgiving sound like a day to stuff ourselves full of food (which, of course, some of us do, but hopefully that isn't the whole point). What about the gratitude part? Why is being thankful so offensive to some people? It is not just religious people who have things to be grateful for, so where is the offense? How can counting your blessings be a bad thing for society?
I heard an argument for not teaching about Thanksgiving this past weekend. The teacher in the conversation said something to the effect that the pilgrims invaded America and took the Indians land, so why would we teach about them? Now I could go on for pages in a rebuttal to that, but suffice it for me to say I am rolling my eyes and biting my tongue. Although the pilgrims are credited with having the first Thanksgiving, to give gratitude for their harvest that the Indians helped them grow, it was actually Abraham Lincoln who set aside an official holiday to give thanks.
1863 Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
How can anyone argue with his list of things to be thankful for? I'm sure they don't. My guess it is that people are offended (a small minority) that he gives the thanks to the Lord. However, you can't erase your heritage. Even if you don't believe in religion or a higher being, the fact is that this country was founded on religious principles by religious people. And whether you want to thank a higher being or not, you can still show gratitude to teachers, parents, soldiers, etc. Maybe this world would be a better place if we focused on the good in our lives, the things we are thankful for, instead of on all the bad things going on in the world. Perhaps that is one of the reasons gratitude is a commandment.
My children do not learn anything about Thanksgiving at school. I haven't asked why, but I probably will now. However, whether or not our education system chooses to teach about Thanksgiving is not going to dictate my life. My children will learn about Thanksgiving. They will learn about gratitude. I hope they will show gratitude and feel thankful for their many blessings. There was a great talk by Elder Eyring in this last conference about gratitude. He says that it is through the power of the Holy Ghost that we recognize the Lord's hand in all things. That as we keep the commandments, serve the Lord, and build our testimonies we will have a change of attitude and recognize the lord's hand in our lives. We can't let Satan win. He is erasing the good from society any way he can, and if he is successful in making people forget to be thankful and blinding them to the Lord's hand in their lives, it is just one more battle he has won to undermine the Lord's plan.