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Celebrate thankfulness during Thanksgiving

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By Gene Linzey

What’s happening this Thanksgiving? Let’s see: the Colts will play the Falcons; that should be a good game. Luby’s is offering a complete meal-to-go for its customers at a decent price. Kraft Foods has a wonderful array of recipes online. There is even a “Thanksgiving On The Net” site. If you have some spare time, that is worth visiting.A friend of mine asked me if there were any Thanksgiving celebrations before the Pilgrims came to America. The answer, of course, is yes. Here are a few tid-bits of Thanksgiving trivia.The Egyptians had a harvest festival to honor Min, the god of fertility and crops. The Chinese had a harvest celebration on what they considered the moon’s birthday. Thinking that flowers fell from the moon on the third day, people watched for them, and whoever actually saw them fall would receive good luck. The Greeks worshipped the grain goddess, Demeter. And the Romans honored the goddess of grain, Ceres (which might be the same as Demeter), and celebrated the Cerelia harvest. This could be the origin of our word, cereal.The Hebrews have been celebrating their harvest festival, Sukkoth, for about 3,500 years. This is also called the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Ingathering, and takes place about five days after Yom Kippur. The difference with the Hebrews is they do not have various gods for each occasion; they have only one God: the Living God. Both Jews and the Christians worship Him. Enter two new-comers in history: the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving celebration in the New World was in 1621, and Canada’s in 1879. Do you see the common thread in that narrative? Thanksgiving, by whatever name, has been religious in nature all through man’s known history. If you want to do the homework, you can follow a harvest celebration back to about 3600 B.C.; give-or-take 400 years. And it was all about giving thanks to God (or gods) for the harvest. So, why are people trying to take religion out of Thanksgiving? Well, they are not. They would like to take Jesus, Yahweh, or Jehovah out of Thanksgiving, but not religion. Recently I taught a class on what I loosely called “Religion: 101.” They learned that most religions are accepting of other religions because they do not have what we call “absolute truth,” and it is the belief in Absolute Truth that sets Judaism and Christianity apart. This is why the world can accept religion in Thanksgiving, but not Jesus or Yahweh. But since separating God from Thanksgiving is almost impossible, the next best idea is to skip the observation. How is that accomplished? First, we stop calling it Thanksgiving Day, and call it Turkey Day. That works: same initials, no God, no thankfulness. Just Turkey Day. Secondly, after Halloween we immediately get out the Christmas decorations. We take almost two months to build Christmas, thus glossing over Thanksgivingeeexcept, of course, the Colts and Falcons football game; we can’t forget that. But also don’t forget that we are still working on getting all forms of Christianity out of Christmas. Now that is a trick: getting Christ out of Christ-mas. All you have left is mas. But that is another story; back to Thanksgiving Day.Calling the fourth Thursday in November “turkey day” effectively reduces thankfulness in the observation. But what’s the point? Can’t Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Zoroastrians, et al, be thankful? I suppose they can. But they have their own celebrations of thankfulness, so why have we been letting the pagan world rob us of “Thanksgiving Day?” (Dictionary Note: a pagan is an atheist or a polytheist; one who believes in less than or more than one god.) Our Thanksgiving Day observation, as we know it, is for the purpose of thanking and worshiping the Living God, the Judeo/Christian God, for our heritage and all His blessings. Let’s not get side-tracked from honoring Him; rather let’s stand firm in our faith, and humbly show our gratitude to Almighty God for His blessings. Let us openly show our gratitude to God. Also, let’s help others in their need so that they, too, have something for which to be thankful.