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Traditions should stay traditional

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:53 p.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

Enough is enough! On Nov. 21, while awaiting a medical checkup, I chanced to read a well-known periodical that, amazingly, was the current issue. Eagerly contemplating Thanksgiving with my children and grandchildren, thankful that we would be together to enjoy a traditional turkey dinner complete with dressing, giblet gravy, cranberries and pie, I was confronted with yet another spoilsport intent upon destroying that very tradition.

It seems a 5th grade schoolteacher has authored a children’s book, “America’s REAL First Thanksgiving” in which she disclaims Mayflower pilgrims celebrating the first Thanksgiving with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian Tribe at Plymouth Rock. Instead, Ponte Verda, Florida’s Robyn Gioia claims it occurred some 55 years earlier near St. Augustine, where Spanish explorers celebrated a thanksgiving meal of bean soup with the local Tinamuca tribe.

Don’t get me wrong, I like bean soup at least as much as the next person, and it is a particularly princely repast when served with corn bread. However, it ain’t Thanksgiving dinner — to me nor to anyone I care to know. Ms. Gioia and her research guru, retired history scholar Michael Gannon, may believe as they wish; nevertheless, teaching this theory as fact to children, particularly when it is at odds with what is celebrated in the majority of homes, is a breach of professional ethics. Traditions are best left to parents.

This is but another mindless attack on the celebrations enjoyed and/or tolerated by more than 90 percent of Americans. The mere fact that much is based upon myth or fantasy renders these fetes neither harmful nor suitable for targeting by nonbelievers or mere malcontents.

For example, there is Christmas, a holiday that combines the celebration of the birth of Christ to Christians with the spirit of giving, embodied in Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St. Nicholas and other mythical, albeit wholesome, creations. Christmas is obviously a Christian festivity but is also deeply rooted in the psyches of nearly everyone, children and the needy in particular, as Christian charities know neither creed, nor race, nor color.

Inexplicably, this holiday has evolved into a silly tug of war involving the politically correct, the “church and state” separatists, those who are unreasonably offended, those who fear offending and assorted “grinches.” This utterly inane overreaction includes instances of banning traditional Christmas carols in schools, eschewing Christmas in favor of “Winter Solstice,” substituting Happy Holidays for Merry Christmas by department stores and the banning of nativity scenes on government property for fear that someone, anyone, might possibly be offended.

In my 72 years upon this earth, I have yet to meet anyone — Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Agnostic nor Atheist — who dislikes or even harbors any resentment toward Christmas. Perhaps those so opposed to our tradition did not find a coveted Red Ryder BB gun or a Chatty Cathy doll under the Christmas tree and seek to vent that frustration upon the rest of us.

There are other seasons under attack. Halloween, a fun evening for children to don costumes and trick or treat for candy and sweets (some of us remember the “trick” as the soaping of windshields and turning over of outhouses), is now roundly denounced as “Satan worship” or a pagan ritual. It is a bit of a stretch to equate 3- to 7-year-olds dressed as pumpkins, bats, goblins and ghosts with the forces of evil.

Many of us can remember celebrating Columbus Day to commemorate the discovery of America. That same Christopher Columbus is now reviled in “intellectually elite” circles as the world’s first terrorist, illegal immigrant, imperialist and harbinger of the slave trade by opening the new world to civilization.

Ms. Gioia, if it pleases you to serve bean soup at Thanksgiving, you are free to do so. And, to the other anti-tradition malcontents who elect not to observe our precedents, so be it. But, please honor us with the same respect and courtesy we afford you.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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