Thanksgiving is big business in the United States - and not just for the 100m turkeys that are dispatched to meet their maker. This is a good time of year for airlines, supermarkets and cinemas as families converge and take some precious time off - important when you remember that workers in the US have the least amount of paid holiday of any rich country in the world.
It is of course a good thing to be grateful for having food on the table - and for one's lot in life. That has become the the key message of the festive season in modern times: Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American way of celebrating how wonderful it is to be American when much of the world beyond seems violent, disordered and chaotic.
But there is an important difference about what the earliest celebrations of Thanksgiving were about, that should make us see this festival in slightly different light. For Thanksgiving was a feast conceived by radicals who were protesting about the way the world was changing. The Pilgrim Fathers left Europe, appalled by the decline in moral standards, disgusted by the obscene wealth that left beggars on streets but enabled the rich to live in vast mansions, and by the way society seemed to be falling apart in front of their eyes. The decision to cross the Atlantic was driven by a desire to find a new Paradise on earth, following the ruination of Europe.
Those who conceived the feast of Thanksgiving were reacting aggressively against a rapid period of intensive globalisation in the late 16th and 17th Centuries, where goods from India, China, the Persian Gulf and beyond were brought to Europe along networks of Silk Roads. This annoyed those who felt that exposure to new ideas, new tastes and new styles compromised traditions, and drove men (and women) further from God.
We might ponder on that this year, as we observe a world around us that seems increasingly bewildering, dislocated and unfamiliar. With crises in Syria and Northern Iraq, Russia and the Ukraine, a build-up of pressure in the South China Sea (and plenty more worries besides), many feel the same instincts of the earliest celebrants of Thanksgiving: that rather than engage with a changing world, understand it and see adapting as progress, it is better bury one's head in the sand.
It's not just the turkeys I feel sorry for this Thanksgiving: it's those who think that building fences across frontiers, that military escalation can bring political settlements and that others across the globe should sort out their own problems. And yet, curiously, the idea of cutting oneself off from the outside world is exactly what drove the Pilgrim Fathers to find pastures new (evicting the local population in the process) to fulfill their dreams.
Centuries later, it is back to the drawing board. Enjoy the turkey - but as well as thinking about the less fortunate this year, also consider whether being more tolerant, more forgiving and more understanding of others might just be a better way of doing things that those pesky Pilgrims.
Happy Thanksgiving !