The Real Thanksgiving
Tracing the Roots of Thanksgiving Day…
We have many things to be thankful for, but none more so than the love of our Creator:
Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose love endures forever! -Psalm 107:1, NAB
On Thanksgiving Day in the United States, we take time out to remember all of the gifts and blessings God has given us. The tradition started in the United States with a few pilgrims back in the 1600s, but the real tradition dates from even before that. When – or what – is the Real Thanksgiving?
During the Protestant Reformation, as many Christians left the Catholic Church to follow Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and other Reformers, some decided to stop celebrating the feast days associated with the Catholic Church – including Christmas and Easter. They were trying to break all ties from the Church.
To replace the traditional Catholic feast days, they began celebrating days of thanksgiving, similar to the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate today. It was a time to remember God and be thankful for all of the year’s blessings.
Few days brought more thanks than the days of the harvest. It is for this reason that we traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving Day near this time. With so many struggling to have food to survive, it is important to be thankful for a God who provides for us this most basic need.
While many Catholics celebrate this traditionally Protestant holiday (myself included), we have the blessing of an even greater thanksgiving meal, each and every week. Yes, we must thank God for the gift of food and sustenance, but His greatest gift to us is His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross.
Each day at Mass, we celebrate the Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word eucharistia. The word eucharistia actually translates to thanksgiving. Imagine that! While the United States celebrates Thanksgiving once a year, Catholics all over the world celebrate the Real Thanksgiving every day of the year.
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is a wonderful holiday. It is a time for us to get to together with family and remember everything we are thankful for. It should hold a special place in our hearts, but the Real Thanksgiving – the Eucharist – is far more special than that.
Enjoy your turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls, but remember that the real feast is the Bread of Life, given to us by our Lord as we approach the altar. We have many things to be thankful for, but nothing more than the love of our God.