Reflecting on the meaning of ‘thankfulness’

It’s almost impossible to feel really good about oneself after Thanksgiving. No one can reflect upon their lives after a day spent in food-fueled revelry and think, “I made the world a better place today.” Whatever else it might be, Thanksgiving is not a holiday that celebrates sustainability and discipline; Turkey Day is the one day each year where overconsumption is hailed as a virtue. Nothing about the great American Feast Day tries to scale itself down. Millions of people drive or fly millions of miles to consume millions of pounds of food in order to celebrate the grand abundance of this country.

At least that is what the original Thanksgiving celebrations were meant to a sense. Really, though, what that very first feast was meant to do was to say, “Thank everything that is good and holy for sending these natives to us so we didn’t all die from starvation.” Abundance was absolutely a reason for the celebration, but so was genuine thankfulness for their survival. Each and every person present at that early feast had personally been affected and very possibly saved by the abundance their nascent country had produced. They were all, in a very real sense, giving thanks for something very near and dear to their hearts: their own achievements and their own survival.

Thanksgiving is now nothing more than a forced celebration of this particular country and the “abundance” it provides. Saying that it is a day on which to “count one’s blessings” is absolutely correct, if only one can recognize that in counting those blessings the praises of the country are also sung. Perhaps the flags aren’t as prominent as they are on July 4, but the day is meant solely to increase one’s patriotism. After all, if one counts their blessings, must the country that provides for those things not also be praised?

Each person who participated in that first Thanksgiving was celebrating and reveling in their achievements. The whole thing was a self-congratulatory slap on the back, really.

If each one of the people in this country who celebrates Thanksgiving today could say to themselves that it was an opportunity to celebrate the work they had done to get to their current position, perhaps the holiday would have merit as a positive behavior reinforcer. But when it is nothing more than a week to “celebrate the country” by letting a decent portion of that country sit on its collective hind end, then perhaps those idle in that week would be better served by.going to work.

Andrew Hamner is a freshman majoring in journalism and political science and may be contacted at