Against Thanksgiving


Some people won’t like this, but I find no reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. Yes, yes, I know, according to Dale Ahlquist over at Catholic World Report, today is allegedly a “Catholic holiday” because the Patuxet Indian Squanto, who converted to Catholicism after being sold as a slave in Spain, arranged a harvest feast with the Plymouth invaders. From there Thanksgiving was born (or so they say). I imagine more than a few Catholics stormed the Bastille, too, but I see no reason why any should celebrate its commemoration. (I do think Catholics should celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, but I’ll save that matter for another time.) Thanksgiving has also become a day when Catholics (and other Christians) celebrate America’s “proud legacy” of religious freedom despite the fact that no such legacy actually exists. It took Catholics centuries to find pockets of toleration in America and once they thought they found it, what happened? Secularization set in and now bishops, priests, and laity alike gladly surrender to the Zeitgeist in order to prove they are “good citizens.”

An Antiochian Orthodox priest I was once acquainted with was told he had to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Thanksgiving. Vexed at the idea that he would be inadvertently celebrating a bunch of heretics killing indigenous people and stealing their land, he flipped his parish to the Julian Calendar for one day only so the Thanksgiving Thursday would align with the feast of St. Gregory Palamas. This year’s Julian Calendar feast is of another great saint, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople. St. John pulled no punches during his lifetime, which in no small part explains why he reposed in exile. He admonished the wealthy of his day to first donate to the poor before buying a golden chalice or other ecclesial ornaments for the church. What, I wonder, would the Golden Mouth have to say to contemporary Christians who gorge themselves on sumptuous meals before passing out drunk in front a football game when thousands upon thousands of Native Americans wallow in squalor on barren reservations “furnished” to them by the Government of the United States?

As for religious freedom, is it not time for us to cease genuflecting before that stripped altar? What toleration is left in this country for authentic Christianity is quickly fading. In a generation or less it won’t exist at all. And then what shall we have to be thankful for? What celebrating will occur then? Hopefully the only celebrations that truly matter: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or the Divine Liturgy. Instead of being thankful that we live in a country which legally slaughters babies, denies workers their just wages, and refuses to pay true reparations to the original inhabitants of this land, we can instead give thanks to God for Christ’s salvific death on the Cross and the hope of Eternal Life. Perhaps then we can take what meager material wealth we have left and spend it on bread for the homeless instead of beer for ourselves. Or maybe in lieu of griping about our “loved ones” and rolling our eyes at our in-laws, we can spend that time in prayer, asking our Lord to spare this country the wrath it deserves for its innumerable offenses against its only true head, Christ our King and Redeemer.


  1. The Catholic origin of Thanksgiving is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. His feast had its own Octave in much of Europe during which the enjoyment of the fruits of the fall harvest including the roasting of a big bird were hallmarks.

    Certainly, as George Washington points out, public expressions of gratitude to God are virtuous for a republic.

  2. It’s not well known, but until the late 19th century Catholics in the United States generally did not observe Thanksgiving, it being not only of Puritan origins, but a supposedly religious holiday whose origins are decidedly outside the Church. A secular holy day, in fact. But sometime in the 1880s or 90s, Cardinal Gibbons promoted Catholic observance of Thanksgiving. Gibbons, of course, was an Americanizer, though not as bad as Archbishop Ireland – or maybe just more discrete.

  3. Many Southerners did not celebrate Thanksgiving because of its origins. Abe Lincoln wished to give thanks for the defeat of Confederate troops in July of 1863 at the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg. I still avoid the celebration.

  4. In the case of Thanksgiving, the name of the holiday provides the only dictate for what the holiday ought to be, regardless of its origins or how the public might squander the opportunity.

  5. Wait… by celebrating Guy Fawkes Day, you mean Catholics should celebrate a day that commemorates one of their own being foiled, then executed?

    (Well, if the Serbs celebrate a battle that they lost and plunged them into four centuries of bondage, then…)

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