When the Pilgrims landed in the New World after fleeing religious persecution in the Old, they faced incredible hardships straightaway. Learning to survive in a wilderness with a different climate was difficult, and the addition of more settlers who arrived without provisions brought them to the point one winter when the daily ration was a mere five kernels of corn. Somehow they made it through, and with help from Squanto and the Wampanoags, learned to live in a new context. After a bountiful harvest the next year, they declared a day of Thanksgiving, and celebrated it with a joyful feast and games (apparently not American football, but it’s hard to say for sure) shared with their Wampanoag neighbours.
On the very next day, the Pilgrims and Wampanoags realised that true happiness and contentment could not be achieved through mere gratefulness. What they really needed was wagonloads of new things, purchased at mind-blowing discount prices. So they came together and declared another holiday; a day dedicated to knocking one another down in a quest to gather as many deals as possible so that they could fill their houses and teepees to overflowing with comfortable and impressive things that would prove their worth and make their neighbours drool with envy. They called this second holiday “Black Friday”, and although the origins of the term are cloudy, some historians believe it came from the fact that many of them ended up black and blue in the mad rush to be the first to get a good deal on the latest convenient oil lamp model, stylish hat, or diamond-studded saddle.
This, of course, didn’t happen. Apparently, the Pilgrims and Wampanoags were actually content with their joyful feast and the provision God had supplied. In fact, it took us 400 years to achieve the cognitive dissonance necessary to turn the day after Thanksgiving into a National Day Of Unbridled Consumerism. Could two consecutive days contrast each other any more? We spend one day in thankfulness for all the gifts we have received from God, then wake up early the next to trample each other in our quest for more!
Some think the world of the Pilgrims was dour and cold, even though history shows them to us singing, feasting, and playing games. We can think what we like about the Pilgrims and their flaws. I wonder, though, if the Pilgrims could see our celebrations this week, what would they think of us?