While we often think of Thanksgiving as something with people with buckles on their shoes and Indians caught in a golden moment before one wages the next stage of a genocidal war against the other, the holiday itself doesn’t go back as far as you can think. Different states and towns celebrated some form of Thanksgiving at different times for extended periods of time, but it was in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln announced that the last Thursday in November would be a national thanksgiving day.
The date of this first Thanksgiving Day fell on November 26th, the same date as the most revered American holiday, Evacuation Day. This is the date the British forces withdrew from New York City and was one of several days that marked the end of the Revolutionary War. It was a big deal at the time, but Thanksgiving immediately became a national tradition, and Evacuation Day became a sporadic celebration that is occasionally revived in New York … only to go away.
The second Thanksgiving Day should be official like the first. Joe Biden was supposed to get out a proper non-Sharpie pen and put his name on an order that would provide a date for Americans to remember the hundreds of thousands who fell, the shared hardships of the pandemic, and the triumph of the Celebrate medicine and celebrate reason for the restoration of the nation. Of course, none of this should happen immediately after the first vaccine is released. Nor should it wait for COVID-19 to be declared extinct. Unlike smallpox, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely to exist for the foreseeable future for a number of reasons.
The date should be set at a point when cases of COVID-19 are not only declining, but clearly it is not just a pause before another surge. A point when vaccines are readily available to the general public and when tests show the disease has really been cornered. That point could happen as early as March, provided vaccines are launched in bulk towards the end of the year. But it’s more likely to come a few months later. Still, let’s hope for this April to May zone because there is a real shortage of federal holidays in this long time between President’s Day and Memorial Day, and it would be nice to fill that void with another excuse to bring everyone together who don’t fall right on another great vacation.
Whenever it happens – and it will happen – we have to be there. Second Thanksgiving Day. And we have to get it right – with parades, lots of flag waving and tears … endless, chest-wrenching sobs of sadness, anger, relief and joy.
And we gotta eat, damn it. Every good vacation deserves a meal. Rather than picking another official animal to mangle, I’m suggesting here that the side dishes get the chance to shine in the foreground on the second Thanksgiving Day. Macaroni and cheese? You know you are the real reason we come together. Yeast rolls? Give me half a dozen. With butter. Let there be casseroles. Let potatoes cook just like a potato can be cooked. Let there be cake.
Make it a reality. Spread the word: Second Thanksgiving Day. Let’s not only take a day to remember the end of the COVID-19 crisis, but also the end of everything that made 2020 such a horror.
I’ll be there with friends, with family, with anyone I can get involved. Now start planning how you are going to decorate. What you will fix. How will you mourn How you will praise. How you will sing
And don’t forget the cake.