On Sunday, October 7, 2012, Ian Bushfield presented on Secular Thanksgiving.
In the talk, I argued that while I grew up with a naive belief about Thanksgiving as a purely secular/pagan harvest festival, the tradition actually has it's roots in European puritans and the first Canadian explorers who gave thanks to God for their safe journeys.
Later, Thanksgiving days were called for a variety of reasons, typically in the late fall. Canada's October Thanksgiving was finalized in the 1950s with an Act of Parliament calling for a day to give thanks to "Almighty God." October was chosen to keep Thanksgiving and Remembrance Days separate.
My view is that Thanksgiving can still be appreciated by Humanists, as there are many things that we are thankful for, and taking one day to remember them can be very useful (especially when many of us get very caught up in many other aspects of life).
Finally, I discussed the darker colonial aspects of Thanksgiving and reminded listeners to take into account the First Nations history in this story. It is especially pertinent here in British Columbia, where much of this province was never negotiated by treaty.
The discussion explored a number of people's different backgrounds, with Thanksgiving emerging as a uniquely North American tradition. Most recognized the value of the harvest, but hadn't necessarily celebrated the holiday here.
A few people pointed out the commercialism of Thanksgiving and how the stereotypical image of eating so much we have to loosen our belts plays into it. It was noted that this is extra ironic given the fact many of us said we should give thanks for having food, only to over-indulge.