Thanksgiving through the years

  The    Old Ship Church    (1681), in Hingham, Mass., the only surviving 17th-Century Puritan meeting house in the U.S., and the oldest church building in continuous ecclesiastical use in the nation

The Old Ship Church (1681), in Hingham, Mass., the only surviving 17th-Century Puritan meeting house in the U.S., and the oldest church building in continuous ecclesiastical use in the nation


Adapted from Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’ in GoLocal24.com

Different species of Thanksgivings. In my past, first there were the long, far-too-complicated and heavy feasts of my childhood, with my four siblings, parents, two or three grandparents, and sometimes a few other relatives from outside our nuclear family, in our house on a hill. It seemed to always be gray and windy that day, with the brown oak leaves swirling. A dull headache after the interminable meal.

Then, after the grandparent generation disappeared, the gatherings shrank, and we often ate in restaurants and sometimes included single friends who may or may not have been lonely. Mediocre food but a crisp couple of hours and it was over.

Much later came our kids and the gatherings grew again for a few years.

Now it’s back to small and quiet as kids and others disperse or disappear. But with holidays, as with so many other things, less can be more. I remember with particular fondness the very quiet and mellow Thanksgiving my wife and I had in the dining room of a hotel in 1975 followed by a nice walk in the old streets around Rittenhouse Square, in Philadelphia.

  Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia.

Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia.

The lyrics and haunting melody of “We Gather Together,’’ the Thanksgiving hymn, although they can be traced back to the late 16th Century as a Dutch Protestant song, have always evoked to me New England’s Puritan origins. “Shining City on a Hill’’ and all that. Two cheers for Calvinism.

1. We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

2. Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

3. We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!