The learned David Gelernter tells the true history of Thanksgiving in a special OpinionJournal column: “A very Christian holiday.” Gelernter writes:
[T]hat long-ago First Thanksgiving still speaks to and for every American, and we ought to listen. It speaks to Christians; they thought it up. It speaks to Jews–Pilgrim Christianity was a profoundly “Hebraic” Christianity; the Pilgrims saw themselves as a chosen people arrived in a promised land; their organizations were based on “covenants,” and they were devoted to the Hebrew Bible. (Late in life the eminent Pilgrim father William Bradford began studying Hebrew, so he might behold “the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty.” More than most American Jews can say.) Those who are neither Christian nor Jew are also present in spirit, represented by the great king Massasoit. Everyone is “entertained and feasted,” and everyone leaves with the same faith that brung ‘im. Thanksgiving speaks for Americans too: it is just like us to set a day aside for a national thank you to the Lord, or (anyway) to someone. Americans continue to be what Lincoln called us, the “almost chosen people,” struggling to do right by man and God.
Clifford May supplements Professor Gelernter’s column with “Pilgrims’ progress: Let’s talk turkey.” For an item from today’s news that brings the history up to date, see “Holocaust survivor reunites with rescuer.”