Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day has been officially celebrated as an annual holiday in Canada since November 6, 1879. Following the proclamation of Governor General of Canada Vincent Massey on January 31, 1957 the particular day on which Thanksgiving ("Action de grĂ¢ce") is celebrated is now the second Monday in October, being historically a celebration of the harvest season and other blessings. Though the liturgical theme of the day is now often overlooked the spiritual alliance with family persists. In deference to this paramount element Canadians gather for their Thanksgiving feast on any day during the long weekend; however Sunday is considered the most common.

According to some historians the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England in search of the Northwest Passage. The Spaniards may have conducted similar services in Spanish North America during the mid-16th century decades before Frobisher's arrival. Years later French settlers having crossed the Atlantic Ocean arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604 and also held feasts of thanks. The first Thanksgiving Day after Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.  After World War I and beginning in 1921 (until 1931 when Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day) Armistice Day and Thanksgiving Day were both celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred.

In violation of both the official celebration and its familial evolution, we composed a unique custom by going to a Vietnamese soup kitchen this evening for a comparatively isolated meal. The young server who looked after us disclosed that business had not been brisk throughout the day. Upon our arrival we two were the only customers in the dining room. The repast which followed was precisely what we sought, predominantly seafood and vegetables.

Earlier in the day during our matutinal bicycle ride along the former B&O Railway right-of-way we passed a couple we know who reside nearby.  I stopped to engage in conversation with them. Not surprisingly a family reunion was on their agenda later in the day, scheduled to unfold at their daughter's new home.  Apparently preparations included not only the requisite roasted turkey and pumpkin pie but also two other pies (apple and cherry). It was enough to whet my appetite! I was even later teased there would be whipped cream -  the ambrosia  of harvest! Our animated parley broached the predictable subjects of real estate, downsizing, travel, politics, family, health and various catastrophes. It was a relatively speedy dialogue but nonetheless invigorating.  We parted upon the most agreeable note amid good wishes for a pleasant winter season!

Suffering the deprivation of familial congregation is not entirely taxing. The celebration of Thanksgiving appears to have lapsed into an axiomatic event which often does not capture either the preferences or interests of the communicants.  This infection applies equally to the young and old of the family.  I often suspected that my mother felt duty-bound to perform the ritual celebration much at the expense of her time and energy. Speaking for myself it required considerable application to withdraw from what had been my own repetitious social undertakings. Habits of any nature diminish reluctantly - and invariably not without the guilt the expiation of which requires the most earnest calculation and rationality - not exactly the ingredients associated with a family foregathering. Once however the transition is effected, the relief is palpable.  My experience is that it is the tumbling gravel which precipitates a rock slide - none of which is seemingly unwelcome.  In an instant alternative plans percolate with uncommon animation.

Amid the remote echoes of shotgun blasts, the falling leaves, the vermillion blushes upon the horizon, the vanishing strength of the fields, the dome of azure sky and the warning freshness of the wind we proceed unwittingly towards the unfolding drama of life, epitomized by an acute pause for the indulgence of generosity and the expression of gratitude.  To me these are the halcyon days of existence, relieved of the urgency of spring and the gusto of summer, a time of tranquil contemplation,  a preparation for what is to come.

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