Article | November 23, 2022
Congregation Update : Thanksgiving
Blog|The Rev Greg Kimura, Ph.D. (Cantab.)
Thanksgiving is its own form of a moveable feast. By that, I mean that the meaning of Thanksgiving and how it is celebrated is evolving.
We have grown beyond the traditional image of pilgrims and Indians eating peaceably together, sanctifying what would become a future European conquest.
Nowadays, it has become a celebration of the earth’s bounty and our stewardship of it. It is also deeply identified with family and loved ones being thankful at the table.
In my family growing up, Thanksgiving was when great uncle George closed his Japanese restaurant for business and opened it to family and friends. The chef cooked a turkey. Everyone else — which meant practically the entire Japanese American community in Anchorage — brought heaping dishes of food. Sushi and sashimi, baked salmon, halibut, shrimp, gyoza, fried rice. Jello molds, banana creme pies, and upside-down pineapple cake, too.
Uncle George also opened the bar. The kids drank Roy Rodgers and Shirley Temples with little umbrellas while the adults… drank whatever they were drinking.
Everyone was happy. People laughed heartily. Crooner music played.
At some point after dessert, the playing cards came out. Adults gathered around tables for poker and blackjack. Grandmother even put on a bingo game for the kids. We all won, usually a box of rice paper candy.
I remember those Thanksgivings as magical. Thanksgiving dinner meant Japanese food. It meant seeing cousins you hadn’t seen in a long time. It meant syrupy drinks with umbrellas. It meant prizes.
Behind it all, I remember uncle George, family patriarch, and son of immigrants, who “made it.” He beamed with pride, sharing his restaurant with family and friends, a glass of scotch in one hand, a cigar in the other.
And we were proud of him.
Uncle George passed away two decades ago. Long before that, the restaurant closed. Kids grew up and moved away.
Though I am grown now, those memories will always embody Thanksgiving to me. I am thankful for them. I am thankful for uncle George and his generation. What they accomplished. What they passed on. How they wanted us all to be a part of it.
However you understand Thanksgiving, celebrated alone or with whomever you consider family, I wish you a happy one. Whatever foods mean Thanksgiving to you, turkey, sushi, vegan loaf, I hope you eat your fill. And I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with blessed experiences and future memories to cherish.
The Rev. Greg Kimura, Ph.D. (Cantab.)