The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is not unique. Harvest festivals, like clans, are found all over the world. Oktoberfest is celebrated wherever Germans have immigrated. My wife’s relatives in South Korea celebrate Chuseok (추석) during full moon of eight month of the lunar year. Canada has its own national Thanksgiving Day holiday, which is celebrated in October.
The Canadian and U.S. holidays are rooted in giving thanks to God for a good harvest and other blessings. The U.S. Thanksgiving Day was introduced as a national holiday by our first president, George Washington. He proclaimed November 26, 1789, “… a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.
In America., many people are looking forward to the holiday within the restrictions imposed because of Covid-19. Our son is back from college and we are anticipating our “traditional” dinner, whose menu actually changes each year. This evening, we will enjoy Popeye’s deep-fried turkey, green beans, cabbage kimchee, Basmati and Himalayan red rice, and baked whole yams stuffed with brown sugar and marshmellows.
On Thanksgiving Day, it’s tradition to share why we’re thankful. During these uncertain times, this may seem disconnected or naïve. A recent article in USA Today highlighted how November 2020 bears an eerie similarity to that of 1918 during the global Spanish influenza pandemic. Then, Americans also had to endure the fear of losing loved ones as the worldwide death toll climbed into the hundreds of thousands, while our country wrestled with the deep societal inequities we are still addressing.
However, even with very difficult times facing us, I am still very grateful:
I am thankful for my immediate family and Clan Urquhart and Kim family members all over the world who have supported each other through the pandemic.
I am very grateful that here in America, we wake up every morning enjoying the freedoms the Pilgrims and non-Puritans yearned for when they sailed from England on the Mayflower.
I am thankful that with the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims laid the groundwork for the freedom of religion and expression enjoyed by hundreds of millions of Americans today. Like our country’s founders, those early settlers in Massachusetts had the universal flaw of human imperfection, making them targets for today’s cancel culture. However, as Katherine Lee Bates penned in America the Beautiful, the Pilgrims beat a thorough for freedom that our founders embodied in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and subsequent Constitutional Amendments
I am very grateful that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to worship or not as we choose, express our beliefs openly without fear of persecution, and assemble peaceably to bring about change in our society.
I am extremely thankful that our Founding Fathers gave us the promise of government that would reject the tyranny our ancestors lived under. If our freedoms are threatened, we do not have to suffer for decades under the despotic, narrow ideology of one faction or a powerful group of elites. We, the People, still have the power to decide what reforms must be implemented and change the direction of government to protect our Constitutional rights. We must never allow those freedoms to be taken from us. My Scottish, French, German, English, Spanish, and Dutch Jewish ancestors did not enjoy them. Neither did my wife and son’s ancestors during the Chosen Dynasty or occupied Korea.
I give special thanks for the thousands of American men and women of all national and ethnic backgrounds who protect us, as well as the hundreds thousands of our countrymen and women who sacrificed their lives to advance the ideals in our Constitution at home and abroad. From the fields of Gettysburg, to the forests of Germany, to the mountains of Afghanistan they have personified America the Beautiful’s words by proving they loved our country more than themselves and mercy more than life.
We are especially blessed by the examples of four Urquhart heroes who fought to safeguard our freedoms: Sergeant Gordon K. Urquhart, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Army soldiers Corporal Thomas M. Urquhart, Private First Class Clifford S. Orcutt, and Private First Class George D. Cromarty. Clifford Orcutt, George Cromarty, and Gordon Urquhart were of Scottish descent; Thomas Urquhart was African American. Clifford and George gave their lives liberating Europe during World War II, Gordon helped repel the communist invasion of South Korea, and Thomas made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.
Whatever country you call home, I encourage you to also count your own blessings as we all strive to remain strong and courageous during the coming months.
With warm regards,
Wil Urquhart of Urquhart