Thanksgiving – A Feast of Stories

The Thanksgiving Table is the centerpiece of our lives, for one day. As the bird dwells in the nest, the nest in the tree, the tree in the garden and the garden on the land, so does the Thanksgiving meal connect us to home, house, land and beyond.

The feast before us is a masterpiece, a perfect painting whose subjects are many. It is the culmination of a long journey. Truly, there is much to be thankful for: our history; the farmers who grow and raise our food; farm hands who tend and harvest the crops; those who transport meet and produce to market; the market where we gather the ingredients for the great autumn meal; the men and women who spend long hours in the kitchen concocting the beauty and flavors of the day; the kitchen gadgets that have revolutionized food preparation; the  decadent sweets that add an undeniable touch to the Holiday Season.

There is much to feast on for the imagination and the Holidays always bring old classic movies off the shelves. Classic stories endure and make us who we are as much as the story of our ancestors. Thanksgiving is the perfect backdrop for literature too. Here are excerpts from three instances where Thanksgiving appears in classic novels.

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Jane Murray’s Thanksgiving by Rebecca Harding Davis (1831-1910)

…They had heard of her dismissal, and they sent gifts to her — sometimes, even, money, but always the tenderest love and sympathy. She sent the money back. But the love and tenderness stayed with her and slowly made the days warmer and the world brighter. Never had the woods worn such gorgeous splendor. Never was a home so cozy and pleasant as this…

On Thanksgiving morning a light flutter of snow fell on the woods and carpet of red leaves below. Jane stood at her window, looking into the bright, silent Heaven beyond…

But as she stood there, warmed by the splendor of the day without and by the fire and homely comfort of the room within, a thought suddenly stirred her heart… Not money, not power, but a great content now filled her life.
On that Thanksgiving Day, the soul of the poor little woman abased itself as it never had done before…

Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) 

… It was soon over; and then all were safely aboard the good Urania, homeward bound. Emil saw his friends in tender hands, his men among their mates, and told the story of the wreck before he thought of himself. The savoury odour of the soup, carried by to the cabin for the ladies, reminded him that he was starving, and a sudden stagger betrayed his weakness. He was instantly borne away, to be half killed by kindness, and being fed, clothed, and comforted, was left to rest. Just as the surgeon left the state-room, he asked in his broken voice: ‘What day is this? My head is so confused, I’ve lost my reckoning.

Thanksgiving Day, man! And we’ll give you a regular New England dinner, if you’ll eat it,’ answered the surgeon heartily.

But Emil was too spent to do anything, except lie still and give thanks, more fervently and gratefully than ever before, for the blessed gift of life, which was the sweeter for a sense of duty faithfully performed.

Over the River by Lydia Maria Child (1802 – 1880)

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood
and straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go extremely slow-
it is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood-
when Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring pie for everyone.”

 

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