The Importance of Thanksgiving?

I confess, having grown up in Canada that I still have a hard time thinking of this week as Thanksgiving. To me it was back in October. (That’s Columbus Day for you Yanks) Since my parents lived way out in Nova Scotia I never went home for the US Thanksgiving either. So my memories of Thanksgiving consist either of going hiking or climbing, joining in a “joint-sorrow” dinner of singles trapped in Provo, or else driving up to Alberta to hang out with my brother, eat pizza and ice climb. Now that I’m married and with a bride who has family in the area, I’m still getting used to it all. Truth be told, I think I’d rather be out skiing. But that’s me.

So my question is, what exactly is the importance of thanksgiving to everyone? Is it something we just do because we’ve always done it? Or do people really think about the Pilgrims? Do people contemplate what they are thankful way in a thoughtful fashion akin to meditating during the sacrament? Or is it just a holiday where the family gets together to overeat?

Speaking of meals, does everyone even eat turkey? As I heard on the radio, few people go to a nice restaurant and order turkey. It seems an odd meal for a formal dinner.

Thoughts? Suggestions for this Canadian ex-patriot?

17 comments for “The Importance of Thanksgiving?

  1. Ana
    November 24, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    I’ll respond with my favorite Thanksgiving text, Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation on the holiday:

  2. November 24, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    I don’t think of the Pilgrims. I like the turkey.

    Does your brother still live in Alberta? If so, let Larry and I know next time you come up, and you can join our Canadian bloggersnacker.

  3. November 24, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    Clark, when you saw ex-patriot, are you making a play on “expatriate,” or are you saying you’re actually no longer Canadian? That is, have you changed your citizenship to the U.S.?

    Some of our closest friends in the world are some Canadians, currently living in Toronto; when we lived close to one another in Virginia, we would have Thanksgiving twice a year at each others’ homes. I don’t mind the October date, but now that I live in the South I’m grateful we Americans settled on November; having Thanksgiving when its 80 degrees out or more isn’t my idea of fun. Anyway, I didn’t see any signficant difference between the way our two families celebrated on a personal level (decorations, the dinner menu, etc.), though clearly America’s Thanksgiving celebration is tied up in our particular civic religion traditions–the Pilgrims and the idea of the land of America being a place of sacred refuge, the religious rhetoric surrounding the Civil War, and so forth–all of which lends it a different feel, with perhaps a different set of expectations regarding what it is we expect ourselves to feel thankful for, and how we feel it.

    Last year, Kaimi asked whether there was, or could be, anything particularly “Mormon” about the celebration of Thanksiving; you can find his comments, and Adam’s and my response, here.

  4. November 24, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    Well there’s a funny story to that Russell. (Although I was typing fast and did mean to type expatriate ala Rick in Casablanca)

    When I worked for Los Alamos I needed a security clearance because I was working with nuclear weapons stuff. So they do the background check and so forth. They also have this ceremony where I have to take this weird oath and so forth. Funny aside, the guy explicitly said that if I was Mormon I didn’t have to take it because Mormons have a religious prescription against oath-taking. I’d never heard of such a thing but I guess at least a few Mormons must have refused to take the oath. Anyway the guy didn’t know I was Mormon but said this.

    Anyway, back to the story, part of the bit about the security clearance was that I had to renounce any other citizenship. There was a bunch of paperwork I had to fill out and get notarized. Then I had to send a copy to the State Department and then I was supposed to send a copy up to the Canadian government renouncing my Canadian citizenship as well. However a few other Canucks told me not to do that, as the big deal was really that politically the U.S. government doesn’t approve of dual citizenship. So I sent the copy to the Feds but not to the Canadian government.

    So whether I have or haven’t renounced my citizenship it up in the air.

    Regarding the date of Thanksgiving – well there’s been snow around here for weeks (although not on the valley floor) Harvest was back at the end of September and beginning of October. There aren’t even many leaves around. So I think that here at least, there is a certain disconnect between the harvest on the east coast and what we experience. On the other hand I had a hard time adjusting to Lousiana and no snow. So I guess everyone is screwed over a bit by seasonal holidays. (Just imagine the Australians and Christmas on the beach!)

  5. john fowles
    November 24, 2004 at 7:22 pm

    I hope this won’t become another thread criticizing the Church for insensitivity towards members outside the US based on the fact that American Latter-day Saints celebrate Thanksgiving, often with religious insight and gratitude.

  6. john fowles
    November 24, 2004 at 7:23 pm

    Clark, I would bet that the guy was mixing us up with JWs.

  7. Sean Harrison
    November 24, 2004 at 8:27 pm


    You climb? And you live in SLC? I have been climbing here since 1972 (I was 14 then), Not enough ice to climb yet but maybe in another week or so. However the skiing has been the best November skiing in decades.

  8. November 24, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    I hope this won’t become another thread criticizing the Church for insensitivity towards members outside the US . Ah John, I’m happy to oblige: you nasty, egotistical, Indian-slaughtering, pompous, uber-patriotic, imperial, war-mongering, thick, redneck Yanks. Now, I feel so much better. What are we celebrating again? Thanksgiving? Weren’t the Pilgrims English? Escaping from England, you say. Fools.

  9. Keith
    November 24, 2004 at 9:07 pm

    We gather together to ask Ronan’s blessing;
    He hastens to chasten, our faults to make known.
    Our reason he’s missing, Great Britain we’re dismissing.
    Oh please, we beg you Ronan, wont you leave us alone.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Even to Ronan. :)

  10. November 24, 2004 at 9:46 pm

    Hey, I’m all for eating Turkey….
    On a more serious note: doesn’t Thanksgiving prove that Mormon revisionists have a point. I mean, everyone knows that Thanksgiving was invented by Lincoln. What historical truth there is in the story is overshadowed by the moral and spiritual truths taught. So, the argument goes, the Book of Mormon can be made up and still be “true”. Who cares if Sasquatch (sp.?) really existed?

  11. November 25, 2004 at 12:22 am

    Sean I did climb a lot, although I wasn’t really that great. Nothing beyond 5.11s. Ben Huff, the new blogger here climbs are well and from what I remember from back when I was climbing he climbed far better than I did. I used to do it a lot although I’ve not really dedicated my time to it in about five years and haven’t really climbed more than a handfull of times the past two years since I got married. I’ve also gotten fat. (Ugh. 25lbs since I got married)

    But my goal is to ski a lot this winter and also get back into climbing shape for the summer. I also want to make it out ice climbing a few times. The question is if my bib still fits. That’s after all my memory of thanksgivings – ice climbing.

  12. November 25, 2004 at 2:40 am

    Clark, I thought when you said Dalhousie you must have been referring to Halifax… I spent the better part of two years (including Sept 11, 2001) in Halifax. I am married to a Newfoundlander who lived in Halifax (engineer at Aliant) for 30 years. It was a funny thing, how different the Canadian Thanksgiving is from the American. To me, the biggest difference is that for us, it is a four-day feast and family time, while for Canadians, it is only a Monday that may or may not include any festivities. Whether the spirit of Thanksgiving can ever be understood by someone who wasn’t raised with it, I don’t know. It may be very like our patriotism, which most non-Americans also cannot really understand. But the feelings are pretty much the same. Not pride, as we are often accused, but really, a humility, a deep humbling gratitude for God’s graciousness to us. At least that is how most Christians feel about it, in my experience. As an avid genealogist, I do think about the pilgrims, my own ancestors in particular, who came to this country, led by God, and through severe hardship created this country so we could live in freedom. We have much to be thankful for. I know I certainly do, and at the top of my list is my wonderful Newfie husband!! ;)

  13. November 25, 2004 at 2:44 am

    My dad was a professor of physics at Dal and just recently retired.

  14. Sean Harrison
    November 25, 2004 at 12:56 pm


    Like I said I started long ago when climbing 5.8 in Little Cottonwood meant something. Now on the back side of my forties I continue to climb 5.11D/5.12A sport and 5.10D trad. I make a trip or two each summer to the Tetons and do a couple of tower routes in the Moab area in the spring and fall.

    I don’t get any better, but considering I have held steady in my grades for the last ten years with my rapidly advancing years I think I am actually improving.

    Nice to know there is another soulmate out there that thinks, and climbs and believes.

    Funny story:

    Several years ago coming off the North Face of the Grand Teton I met a friend. He was hiking in with another climber I did not know. We talked for a few minutes and continued our decent.

    The next week I was talking to my friend, he said his friend asked if I were a Mormon. He said yes. His friend responded with some surprise.

    “I didn’t think Mormons could climb and ski and such”.


  15. November 25, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    The Tetons are awesome. My brother thinks less of them, but he has the Canadian Rockies to hang out in. He and I were supposed to do the Black Ice Couloir one summer, but didn’t know the area and he left the map back at the care. We ended up missing the proper gully in the dark (since you have to finish the climb early to avoid rockfall) and ended wandering up some ice face in a gully in a storm, thinking it was the Black Ice only to find a cliff at the end. Quite the adventure. (Although Chris has had far more)

  16. Susan Malmrose
    November 28, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    Hey Clark.

    For my family growing up, TG was just a four day weekend with a big meal. (My family is not LDS.) I’ve tried with my own kids to make it more significant. Some years we’ve done a “Thanksgiving tree”–a tree made out of construction paper, and everyone had to put at least 5 leaves on it with things they were thankful for written on them. This year, we asked our youngest (age 10) to tell everyone about the first Thanksgiving as well as when it became an official holiday (I guess Lincoln started it during the civil war). Then we went around the table and everyone named 5 things they were thankful for.

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