Bhaju Ram Takachen Shrestha
Every year for the few centuries, the people of United States have been celebrating one of the biggest holidays, called Thanksgiving. Another holiday is Christmas, which is mostly celebrated as a traditional and cultural than faith reason festival. One does not have to believe in Jesus and His birth to celebrate Christmas. China, known as an atheist country since Communism says, “religion is an opinion of people”, produces so many materials for the Christmas that one can say the people of United States can be festively paralyzed without Christmas stuff from China.
But for the festival of Thanksgiving, which too does not required believe in God, the Creator, though it originated with thanking God, might not needed Chinese materials to celebrate because it can be celebrated with what they have. No doubt the Chinese might be getting benefit of American being thankful because they could supply what Americans need. But the purpose of this article is not to dwell on the business cultural aspect of celebration, but of Thanksgiving in the United States.
It is however, interesting that the Thanksgiving Festival is not internationalized as Christmas, Easter, New Year, May Day etc. Thanksgiving that originated in England as a harvest festival has gotten a strong root in America. There are other countries that celebrate harvest festival in different ways. In Nepal, Dassain, used to be a harvest festival when all paddies were harvested and brought to the storehouse or bhakari and then celebrate the festival of Goddess Durga mainly to be thankful for the good harvest. But the mother nature and the festival season do not seem to be in agree with each other and depleting agricultural land in Nepal, the true feeling of Dassain seem to have got lost. The kind of Thanksgiving that is exclusively maintained only by American has a special family, communal and national feeling. Whereas Christmas is imported to America from the Western Europe Rome, has a different fervor than Thanksgiving that the Americans feel it is their national festival. To celebrate Thanksgiving, all they need turkeys (not the country) that the Pilgrim Fathers may not have known, and some wonderful food grown in the United States. (I think much of the turkeys are supplied from outside of the United States). Modern Thanksgiving is more concentrate on consuming food rather than thanking the Giver of food. It is also family get together time, like Dassain festival in Nepal where in the name of sacrifice people consume various edible animals. The interesting thing about the Thanksgiving is a question, why only American celebrates and why it is not internationalized and should not there is a thanksgiving day in every country?
Not able to bear the persecution as a Bible believing Christians, the group of people named Pilgrims left England and landed in New England (America) in 1621 A.D. To the prejudiced mind, England has been known as a Christian country, though today number one in atheistic country that produced star atheist like Steven Hawkins, and propagator of atheism, Richard Dawkin. One would think that those who believe in Jesus, England would be a safe haven for Christians. But the history of England though had great many Christian leaders, theologians, statesmen then and now, was a place of hell for those who believe in freedom of consistence at time. England suffered first ruled by savage people, then two warring denomination Christians called Protestant and Roman Catholic. When a protestant ruler ruled England, the Catholic suffered, and when Catholic ruled England, the Protestant suffered. In this context according to the Biblical principle, it cannot be called a Christian country for the Bible says, not just love brothers (own faith brothers) but even neighbors who do not share the same belief. Of course, even to this date, there cannot be any country that is called Christian for Jesus Himself said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” Why should any country try to make Him a king for the political reason without following the law or constitution of His Kingdom, which are the Ten Commandments?
Anyway, because of persecution of the state sponsored religion (when religion and political state join hands together, there is always a tendency to persecute the people who do not hold the state religion. It tramples the freedom of conscious which includes right to believe in God and right not to believe in God), a group of British left England on a boat (the same way many people from the third world countries including Nepal try to reach America through death threatening boats because of the tyranny inflation and disgusted with the hopeless hope propagandas by the rulers of own countries). Those people who left England were called Pilgrims; today they would be called refugees. (I hope the new president of United States has not forgotten his history). After many months of struggling and losing many lives while in the boat, the survivors landed in America, which Columbus mistakenly called India because of his lack of his knowledge in geography. They came to the sea shore of America and started to settle clearing the forest. As time went on, many starved to death but the Native Americans helped them to grow corn and other food. Turkeys were ready available commodity in the forest but may not have used by them. These pilgrims were thankful to God, the Creator for their life and food, and also native tribal American who helped them to survive. Together they wanted to thank God, so the Pilgrim fathers called together own community and invited the native people to celebrate thanking God for His gift of food to sustain their life and enjoy the harvest. The Pilgrim Fathers may not have known the word Thanksgiving but later in 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving celebration, later during the height of civil war that cost the life of more than 600,000 Americans, President Abraham Lincoln called the nations to give thank to God for the surviving family members and pray to God for the healing of the wound of nation. He proclaimed the last Thursday of November to celebrate the Thanksgiving and the day to celebrate the last Thursday of November. It was the President Franklin D. Roosevelt who made it a national festival and declared holiday.
This event tells that America was founded by those who ran away to exercise the freedom of religion and thankful hearts to God who sent His Son for the “Peace on Earth and good will toward all men” regardless of persuasion and nations. Of course, if America forgets this, no doubt they will have to pay for it. How many time people get offend when one is not thanked but what about thanking the Eternal God, the Creator? It is not enough to thank just one time in a year, but all the time. It is important that we too be thankful to the Eternal God who sustain us and all those human building blocks that made us what we are today (provided we are thankful first for own meaningful life-if we have for many hurry to die by inviting unhealthy life style).
It is said that while campaigning for the election, Abraham Lincoln used to say, “I am a self made man.” He is known for not so handsome president, may be like Ashthabraka Rishi of the Hindu puran, whose bone anatomy was not as in a normal man. One day a woman asked him, “Mr. Lincoln, you said, you are a self made man?” “Yes, Maim” Mr. Lincoln replied proudly. Then she said, “Then Mr. Lincoln, you did not do a good job to yourself.” Yes, no one is truly a self made man; it takes a lot of people to make a person. The explicit command not to kill a man in the Bible has a special meaning because to kill a man means to kill God within him for Jesus said, “I will come into you and have food with you.” We must learn not to be self center but be thankful to a man or woman who was created in the image of God so that he or she can maintain that image in commune.
I want to end this article by thanking every one regardless of religion, race, age and gender, who gave me the meaning and shape to live. If I were to name, I would offend many people, so kindly pat yourself on your back saying “Bhaju is thankful to you.” Many of course, are sleeping till the Great Resurrection day.
Since giving thanks does not belong to only one country why not we have a special day to thank too so that our life can move more of positively than in hopeless mood?