In our Oxford priory we celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a big dinner with all the students of Blackfriars Hall, many of whom come from the USA. We provide the turkeys and the students bring lots of side dishes and accompaniments. For many of them it might be the first Thanksgiving away from their family, so we make an effort to create a festive atmosphere here while keeping the families in our prayers.
The essential meaning of the event – to give "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens", according to Abraham Lincoln's proclamation in 1863 – transcends national and cultural boundaries. And yet the particular traditions of Thanksgiving can seem strange to an Englishman. None more so, perhaps, than the (fairly recent) public 'pardon' of the 'National Thanksgiving Turkey' by the President. Here's the video of President Obama performing the ceremony yesterday.
It is especially curious to see President Obama's uncertainty about the ritual dimension of the act: he holds out one hand as though in blessing, like a priest. Then, unsure how to finish, he even makes a surreptitious sign of the Cross!
It is an unthinking parody that may irritate some Catholics. But at least it is a testimony to the universal relevance of liturgy. Our culture cannot truly express itself without liturgical acts. Prayers and speeches are one thing, but the physical signs that accompany them (which in the real liturgy become sacramental) can make all the difference in the world.
Godzdogz wishes all its American readers a very happy Thanksgiving!