Why does it matter whether we get the Puritans right or not? The simple answer is that it matters because our civil society depends, as theirs did, on linking an ethics of the common good with the uses of power. In our society, liberty has become deeply problematic: more a matter of entitlement than of obligation to the whole. Everywhere, we see power abused, the common good scanted. Getting the Puritans right won’t change what we eat on Thanksgiving, but it might change what we can be thankful for and how we imagine a better America.
Historiann has no problem with Hall's conclusion, but points out some of the darker underside to the history of feasting and fasting in America -- in particular, its long connection to war and tribalism:
Both fasts and feasts were opportunities to reaffirm tribalism, of a world view of us versus them. The history of fasting and feasting in the English communities of New England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries should be written in blood–both blood in the sense of kinship ties, and in the sense of the shedding of outsiders’ blood in war.
The history of fasting and feasting is "more complicated and much darker than Americans would like to remember," she reminds us. Reading the many pages on this subject in George C. Rable's God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War, reinforces this point. About every five pages, it seems, someone from North or South is calling for a fast day, or preaching a fast day sermon. There was a lot of ostensible bowing, scraping, and humility, but ultimately it was all about killing. With all these fast days during the war, it's a wonder anyone ever ate.
John Fea reflects on what he would teach about the original Thanksgiving here, at his new column over at Patheos, and what it meant for the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, who both had been through some brutal times, to share a brief celebration together. I hope your celebration goes well.