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Bahamians, Give Thanks!

By Canon S Sebastian Campbell

Someone asked the question, "If you are doing something, shouldn't you know what you are doing?" Come on, we are all rational people, therefore the answer can only be in the affirmative. Tragically though, this does not always play itself out logically.

I am saddened by this American cultural transplant that has almost devoured that which is truly Bahamian. Americans are celebrating their Thanksgiving and yet the gullible Bahamians are claiming ownership of this piece of American cultural identity. It is their time of year to celebrate their Pilgrim fathers. Our educational system has misled many Bahamian children in teaching and celebrating Thanksgiving as if it were our own. I've sat in disbelief at many a ceremony to hear the American story and been invited to an American dinner in celebration. Yet we wonder why children are imitators of a foreign culture and seek an identity of another people.

The Bahamas has no Pilgrim fathers. Turkey, ham, pumpkin pie et cetera play no part in our cultural heritage. To continue this fallacy is to support a cultural invasion. We are being swamped with American culture and quietly accept. Only a cultural revolution can reverse our warped thinking. 'Bahamians First' as a slogan can win elections but remains a distant dream.

Check it out:

  1. Wendy's has positioned itself as the restaurant at our national gateway, the Lynden Pindling International Airport.

  2. Burger King was once the national sandwich at the Bahamas games.

  3. American franchises litter our landscape, so much so that in some places on this island you will be convinced you are in the United States.

  4. Parents are guilty of stuffing their children for breakfast, lunch and dinner with American fast food and therefore contributing to excessive obesity problem we have.

We hoped emancipation from this enslaving ordeal would have begun in our schools, in education. But we are disappointed. Is the Ministry of Culture sensitive to this invasion?

The Bahamas has no Thanksgiving Day. What we celebrate at this time of year is harvest thanksgiving. It's most unfortunate that these two separate occasions have come to be celebrated at the same time each year. This helps to explain the confusion.

At the end of November we celebrate harvest thanksgiving not American Thanksgiving. This is rooted in the Old Testament where it prescribes a feast to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest (Pentecost) and another to celebrate the ingathering of the threshing floors and the wine press (Tabernacles: Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9,13).

The move began in 1843 to have such a celebration at the end of a liturgical (church's) year as a general thanksgiving to God for all His blessings during the past year. We are at the end of the liturgical year, and therefore the harvest thanksgiving celebration.

Sunday, November 23, marks the end of the liturgical year. The Christian new year begins on Sunday, November 30, with the Advent season. Therefore, we join with countless millions of Christians at this time to give God thanks in a very practical and graphic way. We bring expressions of God's blessings to the church to remind us of God's generosity to us over the past 12 months. You will find the faithful bringing their field produce, dry grocery, toiletries, pastries and the like that are then given away to charity. This is indicative of our giving back to God a portion of what he has given to us ("For as much as you have done it unto one of these, the least of your brethren, you have done it unto me," says Jesus).

In hindsight and looking towards the future, we are who we are and should celebrate what we are and all we can be. Surely, it makes no sense giving thanks for turkey when there are no local breeders, or for ham, which is all imported.

If we can only remember the countless biblical stories involving the first and best fruits and the wonderful harvest hymns then the concept of harvest as an island nation would become evident. Most, if not all, Bahamians can identify with the slash and burn subsistence farming or the sheep and goat rearing which for the most part brought many poor Family Island families through. It was definitely a time to be thankful for the harvest. Hence out of this was born the sense of unselfishly and excessively giving, with God doubling the harvest many a year. These were the times that I was most thankful as a child growing up. If we as a people can only give God the very best and first of all our harvest, then Bahamians will live to appreciate the total implications of all that harvest was intended to be by God. We only need to read again the Cain and Abel approach to harvest as seen in Genesis so as to be properly educated in our approach to harvest thanksgiving and open the floodgates to our blessings. God showers us with His blessings when we are thankful to Him for His Blessings on us as a peculiar people.

Yes, probably, we ought to have own national thanksgiving day, and through consistency and dedication we would soon have it entrenched in our cultural identity. What a wonderful opportunity that would be to show ourselves and the world that we are not identified by ham, turkey and pumpkin pie, but rather we are celebrants of crab and rice, coconut milk and rice, crab soup, conch, grouper, mutton, coconut jimmy, trifle, flour cake, benny and coconut cake, conch and grits, pineapple upside down.

To God be the glory!

Yes Bahamians, we must purge our minds of such foreign influences and thank God.

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