Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It is one of the biggest holidays celebrated in the United States, and one of my favorites. America is a secular nation. We have no national religion. While this is overwhelmingly a good thing, the one disadvantage of being from a secular nation is the lack of a commonly celebrated day for anything other than nationalistic pride.
In contrast, the country where I currently live, Bulgaria, does have national and religious holidays. For example, Alphabet Day is a day of great pride when Bulgarians celebrate the Greek missionary brothers Cyril and Methodius who invented the Cyrillic alphabet as a means of bringing the Bible to the people who lived in what is now Bulgaria. The Cyrillic alphabet has since spread across the world through Ukraine, Russia, and as far as Mongolia. The Alphabet is a big source of national and spiritual pride for Bulgarians.
Yet America has no such holiday because, unlike Bulgaria where there is an overwhelming Orthodox majority, the United States is made up of countless spiritual and religious beliefs. This is why I love Thanksgiving so much. It is the closest thing America has to a universally celebrated spiritual holiday.
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 in Plymouth by two groups of people. There were the Pilgrims who were Puritan Christians. They arrived in Plymouth on December 16, 1620, and they did not fare very well. During the first months 2 or 3 of them would die every day, and only 52 of the original 102 passengers on their ship, the Mayflower, survived their first year in America.
That number would probably have been much lower had it not been for the Wampanoag people who lived in the area. After a few months living in Plymouth, the Wampanoag and Pilgrims signed a treaty of mutual protection and entered into a friendship. One Wampanoag in particular, Squanto, took it upon himself to help the Pilgrims learn how to work the land. In November of 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag feasted together as friends in thankfulness.
Two peoples, with different religious and cultural convictions came together in gratitude. The Pilgrims would have been thankful to God, while the Wampanoag as animists would likely have been thankful to Mother Earth. Yet they celebrated together in peace and with gratitude.
Centuries later, the tradition continues. Ethnic background, and religion do not matter. We are all Americans. We might thank different spiritual forces (or none at all if we are atheists), but we are all thankful.
This is why I love America. We share different beliefs and hold different values, but at the end of the day we all sit down together in gratitude. We are all Americans. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.