ATHENS – Having just celebrated my second Thanksgiving since moving here I began to think more seriously about something that often comes up in the U.S.: wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people of Greece also established a Thanksgiving holiday?
Many Greeks already have an idea about what surveys reveal to be the most beloved holiday in America.
In my experience, the tradition resonates strongly with the people of Greece, giving me hope that a movement to establish a formal celebration could succeed.
After all, expressions of Thanksgiving are built into Greek culture as elements of other holidays – Greek Independence day is connected with the Theotokos, to whom the heroes of 1821 prayed for assistance and later thanked for victory.
Appreciaton for the past, solidarity in the present, hope for the future. That is what happens spontaneously and naturally when Greek families gather at the table for holidays.
Few nations celebrate Pascha like the Greeks, Πάσχα των Ελλήνων – Pascha of the Hellenes – in the words of St. John Chrysostom. Is Pascha not essentially a Great Feast of Thanks for the Lord for laying down His life for us? And in the Orthodox Church the central moment and action of worship is not only called Holy Communion but also Αγια Ευχαριστια – Holy Thanksgiving.
Even in post-modern Greece, many individuals and families bless their food and thank God for it at the dinner table – so why not establish a single day each year for special thanks to God, our loved ones, and our nation?
It would also be another powerful symbolic link between the homeland and the Diaspora if friends and relatives would all each other on their countries’ given day to wish “xronia polla kai kali Efharistia”
And we don’t need to create a new holiday; rather we can add an explicit and evocative element of Thanksgiving to an existing one – and create a symbol.
As there is a Vasilopita for blessings for the New Year, let us create, beginning with Greek-Americans on their Thanksgiving Day, an Efxaristopita – the person distributing it would thank each person at the table for his/her sacrifices and the good they have brought into their lives during the past year.
I have a specific holiday in mind, of which Greeks are conscious but which has not taken root, being devoid of the emotional and symbolic content that exists in America: Mother’s Day.
It can be called Μερα της Mητερας και Eυχαριστιας – Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day.
Who evokes a spirit of thanks in our families more than our mothers? And if someone rightly asks “what about our fathers” then why not hold the feast on Father’s Day every other year?
In the Homeland and the Diaspora, one often hears that the cause of the Greek crisis is not economic or even political, but the destructive mindsets: greed, dependence, selfishness, ingratitude, etc. Will not a formal feast where everyone expresses thanks and appreciation make an impact over time, beginning with children and young adults?
I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.