On the Meaning of Thanksgiving

For reasons that are obscure even to me, on a bulletin board I frequent there is a discussion going about whether or not, in the United Kingdom, holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are celebrated.

To those reading across the Pond, I apologize for the obtuseness of my fellow countrymen. We have a bit of myopia where our role in history is concerned.

One person made an impassioned rant against a British celebration of Thanksgiving — “Why,” he asked (paraphrasing here), “should we celebrate a bunch of people leaving the Mother Country and starting over? We’re not even descended from them!”

I don’t know. It occurred to me that there’s a very good case to be made for Europeans of all stripes to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Yes, really. Let me explain.

A bunch of Calvinists boarded a boat, left England, and set sail for the New World. A bunch of Calvinists who were too batshit loony for the Church of England that they fled first to Holland and then to the New World because the CoE was too liberal for them. I would jokingly say that the United States was settled by England’s religious nutters, but it’s actually true, and after the United States became independent, we started taking in Europe’s religious nutters, too.

Seriously, there’s a reason for the English to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a commemoration of how the religious malcontents buggered off to make America a religious wreck, leaving the Mother Country to thrive in peace without them.

:lol:

4 thoughts on “On the Meaning of Thanksgiving

  1. What I find funny, sad and disgusting about 21st century Islamophobia is that this country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution.

  2. What’s even more funny, sad and disgusting, though, is that the Puritans who remained in Britain (I don’t know about the Pilgrims), were pretty fanatically anti-Catholic. They were certainly victims of religious persecution under the Stuarts, but they were also proponents of it when Cromwell was in charge.

  3. England’s religious landscape in the 1620s and 1630s is massively complex.

    The Puritans were persecuted to some extent under the Stuarts, though they weren’t welcomed under Elizabeth, either. They weren’t allowed to worship as they saw fit, and they were considered a dangerous, even demagogic movement within the Church of England.

    The Puritans, as you note, Daibhid, were fanatically anti-Catholic. That’s where they got their name from; they thought the Church of England had too much “popery” in it, and they wanted something that had no vestiges of Catholicism. In a lot of ways, what the Puritans wanted was a church that wasn’t far removed from the Presbyterians, with each church on its own.

    The Pilgrims were the hardest of the hard core Puritans. They were extreme even by Puritan standards, and the Puritans who settled Massachusetts were a little liberal for them.

    Puritanism endured longer in the colonies than it did in England. It basically burned itself out in England after the Restoration — and by that time there were greater religious concerns, like Catholicism in the monarchy or the rise of the Quakers and the Methodists. In New England, Puritanism lingered until the end of the 17th-century, and it was things like the execution of Mary Dyer and the persecution of the Quakers in Massachusetts Bay Colony that deprived the Puritan leadership of power led to the imposition of royal order in the colony. Ultimately, American Puritanism would evolve into Congregationalists and, curiously, Unitarians.

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