Rethinking Thanksgiving Beyond the Turkey

Why does the translation of autumn generously lend itself to a season of “giving thanks” and what exactly does that mean to us in our modern day society?  Surely it was more relevant during humanity’s rudimentary epochs of war, systemic political and religious oppression and exploitation, feudalism, famine and rationing, plague, subsistence agriculture, and pre-industrial manufacturing… or was it?

Perhaps the relevance of Thanksgiving, as a concept, is less obvious today than it has been historically, but that doesn’t mean it is any less material.  In fact, it may be even more appropriate in our current times than it ever has been before.  With our natural resources diminishing daily, global climate change fatally threatening the ecological balance in which we live and thrive, the endangered species list growing at an alarming rate, the fight for the arctic and dwindling natural resources heating up, the prevalence of extreme polarity and the rise of radicalism in political and religious fractions, not to mention war, power and struggle over Africa and the Middle East, and the global economic crisis creating shock-waves worldwide, it’s definitely time to reconfigure mankind’s priorities.  If the goal is to create a universal tolerance and collectiveness, enabling our survival, than we must first understand what that means. In order to change, we must appreciate, and in order to create, we must resist those things we cannot change to make room for those things we can. So where does this appreciation and impetus come from?  With the rise of chronic disease and a growing demand on healthcare comes an appreciation for general health, prevention, and well-being.  With the rising prices of oil, water and energy, the growing expanse of concrete and the greenhouse effect, comes an appreciation of natural resources and fresh produce.  With an exhausted global economy comes a renewed appreciation for the product of one’s own labor and a return to the basics.  With oppression comes libretarianism, from synthetics comes a return to organics, and with exploitation comes a revival of ethics.  In sum, appreciation comes from the holes within our society, needed to be filled.  Today, Thanksgiving is about reassessing the way we view our world and its societies by rethinking morality in a much broader scope, in which we must treat our world and its people as ends rather than means to an end.

Canadians have much to be thankful for.  We still have wide open spaces to roam, wildlife to observe, forests from which to breathe, lakes and rivers from which to drink, and access to the kind of variety that would make many peoples’ head spin.  So Thanksgiving and its season is not just some bequeathed historical tradition that conjures up a myopic, 17th century visual of the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony breaking bread with the Native Americans; nor is it a remembrance of the English and continental-European Harvest festival, or a nearsighted understanding of Canadian, Martin Frobisher and his celebrated 16th century quest to find the Northwest Passage.  Thanksgiving is so much more than its historical references.  It is of a timeless relevance that transcends historical commentary because it pervades all things in existence to which we recognize, appreciate and respect.  So, as the much loved holiday nears, and we busy ourselves with the turkey preparations, the squash roasting, the pumpkin pie making, the leaf burning, the hot chocolate brewing, we should take a moment to remind ourselves of all that we have and are truly thankful for – not just on a personal level, but in a general consensus for a beautiful today and a better tomorrow.

-Elizabeth Cucnik

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