So, you found Thanksgiving 2017 stressful?
Hang on for Thanksgiving 2018, right on the heels of a heated election, religious and secular massacres, floods and fires.
If you are hosting, make sure to put up a sign reading “Please Leave all Politics at the Door.” Not a problem, you say? The relatives who REALLY don’t like your politics didn’t accept your invitation in the first place!
In the front foyer, place a table, decorated with tiny gourds and fake cranberries, and place a small but legible sign that reads, “No cell phones past this point! You and your electronics may reunite after dessert!”
Here’s a hot flash. Things in America are politically contentious, pitting friend against friend, co-worker against co-worker, and relative against relative. But in the run-up to Thanksgiving, stop for a moment and remember the man who gave you Thursday off. Abraham Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, three years into the Civil War, Lincoln delivered his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation: “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.”
A nation divided, brother against brother, brutal fighting and heavy losses, and Lincoln proclaims it a day to thank our Creator for all the gifts we DO have!
Sometimes we take Thanksgiving for granted, or idealize it. “Over the river and through the woods” or more likely, on an expressway or plane. There’s the Macy’s Parade, Butterball’s Emergency Turkey Talk-Line and uninterrupted football. Some manage a prayer of Thanksgiving in the Norman Rockwell tradition.
Don’t have a Norman Rockwell family? Maybe start a new tradition. Try a “Cup of Thanks.” Each guest states what they are thankful for, and adds a drop of water, or wine or Sambuca. Should a killjoy say “pass,” apply peer pressure until they come up with SOMETHING.
Another possible tradition, especially if you have children, is to go around the table asking where everyone’s ancestors came from, how they came and WHY they came!
After everyone has shared, thank whatever higher power you pray to, then open the front door and say these words from Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus” written on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
On Thanksgiving 2018, be thankful, not despondent. For just one day, let’s bury the hatchet, but not in each other. Mute the TV. Pay no heed to alarming Twitter feeds. Engage in civil discourse. Remember those who came before you and built this country. Pray for those who have fought and died to give us our way of life. Have hope for the future and above all, celebrate the GOOD of being an American.
— Rose Lyn Jacob
Rose Lyn Jacob is a rabbi and writer in Syria, Virginia. This piece originally appeared in the Rappahannock News.