While children still study these facts in school (we can hope), many of us who once studied them have forgotten the richness of detail. That's too bad. The continuing saga of "Thanksgevynge" is a rich one, enough to enliven any conversation for the holiday.
Edward Bleier, a first-generation American, whose parents did not come over on the Mayflower, but whose family went from "peasant penury to middle class" in one generation, enjoyed an improvised Thanksgiving as a child. He grew up wanting to celebrate it in a more meaningful way.
He has written a charming little book called "The Thanksgiving Ceremony," in which he outlines a participatory ceremony for guests around the table to read out loud - singly and in unison - from the history and poetry that accompanies the holiday. It's patterned like a miniature Haggadah, the book used by Jews to celebrate the Passover Seder.
A leader calls together the dinner guests with a toast and then calls on others to chant or read passages to celebrate the early history of the nation. Some are excerpts from prayers, poems and stories of gratitude from around the world. Examples:
"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls."(Aesop's Fables)
"If the only prayer you say in your whole life is 'thank you,' that would suffice." (Meister Eckehart, Christian mystic)
"What I kept, I lost. What I spent, I had. What I gave, I have." (Persian Proverb)
There's more, from works as diverse as the Psalms, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Albert Einstein and Anne Frank. There are the lyrics of "Amazing Grace," "America the Beautiful" and "Shine on Harvest Moon," all reflecting the language and eloquence of the faith of our fathers. All give new meaning to "talking turkey."
So pass the cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top. Happy Thanksgiving.