Howard Copelan, Publisher
The holiday the best explains the American experience is Thanksgiving.
While it may have begun as a harvest festival like Oktoberfest it has taken on a whole new meaning stuck at the end of November.
Indeed it is because of its peculiar location on the calendar that makes it ever so wonderful.
Naming a feast day less than a month before winter with at least three hard months of snow ahead bespeaks a kind of optimism that no other country can copy let alone emulate.
But Americans do.
Indeed Thanksgiving is the first holiday immigrants adopt and the last American holiday ex-patriots forget in their new homes if they ever do.
We have been told of the feast being kept in every corner of the world from Beijing to Sydney to Nairobi to Helsinki.
All countries have their national day.
It is usually one of parades and fireworks, patriotic speeches, expositions of military might. All religions have major and minor holidays that include a variety of worship in churches, temples, mosques or synagogues with prayers and chanting, incense and sometimes self flagellation.
But Thanksgiving is quintessentially different.
The center piece of the holiday is the meal and the central part of the holiday is Home. Take away those two elements and there is no holiday, or at least it is not Thanksgiving.
Formalized by Lincoln in 1863 in the middle of the civil war Thanksgiving was quickly adopted in the South after Appomattox.
A little strange for people who refused to stand for the national anthem as late as the 1920’s to celebrate a damn Yankee holiday but somehow Thanksgiving is different.
It touches a chord that most people never knew existed but once struck bears repeating every year.
We have a very sophisticated Parisian brother-in-law who is in the habit of looking askance at everything not Parisian.
He asked out wife to explain the holiday.
‘We make a feast with Turkey,’ she said. ‘And then the family gives thanks for everything or anything.’
‘And you do this in November?’ He asked ‘When it is cold and probably snowing? You don’t go out. You don’t do things.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Most people just stay home or visit family or friends.’
He took it in thought about it and said ‘What a wonderful idea.’
The insistence of the Oregon trail group to save every wagon rut they possibly can is just plain weird.
Don’t get us wrong we love history.
We have even been accused of being archeology groupies.
But seriously one does not have to cordon off progress to preserve it the past.
Indeed if those immigrants cared as much about history as their be knighted descendents they never would have made the trek west and their grandfathers never would have crossed the ocean.
To fight so hard to completely preserve one event does not bespeak a reverence for history but rather a an obsession.
Our pioneer ancestors did not define themselves by their journeys but by what they accomplished after they reached their destination.
They tamed a continent and built a country.
That is what we should celebrate.
That is what we should preserve.