Today’s Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite among American traditions. The story goes that it started exactly 400 years ago — in the fall of 1621. The wiki says that it —
“… is traced to the Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620s and 1630s. They brought their previous tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The 1621 Plymouth, Massachusetts thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated this with the Wampanoags, a tribe of Native Americans who, along with the last surviving Patuxet, had helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food in that time of scarcity, in exchange for an alliance and protection against the rival Narragansett tribe.”
By all accounts it appears that Thanksgiving was a happy occasion. They were giving thanks for a bountiful harvest that year; in the previous years many had died of starvation. Previously, they had tried to go the socialist way — from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. They thought that it would be all milk and honey but it did not work out that way. They starved. Then they decided to take the capitalism route.
There’s more to the story than this simple, and simplistic, account. In the US, Thanksgiving is the biggest family event, second only to Christmas.
The first Thanksgiving I celebrated was in 1982 in New Haven, Connecticut. It was truly wonderful. I have much to be thankful for. Several times every day, I pause whatever I am doing and silently meditate to remind myself that I am lucky to be who I am, and lucky to have what I have. The thought is simply, “Isn’t this good?” and I thank the universe.
 For a bit more on the socialist-to-capitalist story, read this excellent piece by Prof Richard Ebeling. Quote:
The desire to “spread the wealth” and for government to plan and regulate people’s lives is as old as the utopian fantasy in Plato’s Republic. The Pilgrim Fathers tried and soon realized its bankruptcy and failure as a way for men to live together in society.
They, instead, accepted man as he is: hardworking, productive, and innovative when allowed the liberty to follow his own interests in improving his own circumstances and those of his family. And even more, out of his industry result the quantities of useful goods that enable men to trade to their mutual benefit.
In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. At a time of economic uncertainty, it is worthwhile recalling this beginning of the American experiment and experience with freedom.
This is the lesson of the First Thanksgiving. This year, when we sit around our dining table with our family and friends, let us also remember that what we are really celebrating is the birth of free men and free enterprise in that New World of America.
The real meaning of Thanksgiving, in other words, is the triumph of capitalism over the failure of collectivism in all its forms.