So you’ve never heard of a Thanksgiving Haggadah? Clearly you have never participated in a Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house! And you didn’t read my account of the one held ten years ago, since you weren’t reading this blog at the time. The image on the right shows the first page of our Thanksgiving Haggadah, which is actually titled Harvest Haggadah as you can see.
What, you may well ask, is a Thanksgiving Haggadah? How was yesterday’s dinner like a Seder? The answers are two-fold — form and function:
- In each case the form is that of a dinner combined with a ritual that includes a set order of activities, stories, songs, readings, and recognition of historical events that we must never forget.
- In each case the function is to gather together with friends and family to celebrate, to be thankful, and to remember the past.
Thanksgiving and Passover are of course two very different holidays, but they have something in common. There is nothing specific about Judaism in our Harvest Haggadah — why would there be? — and yet there are some common themes and common values. The commonalities might be obvious (or maybe not?), but there are also some important distinctions. A big one is that the Passover Haggadah was written by an oppressed people (“We were slaves in Egypt…”) whereas Thanksgiving was created by a group of people who benefit from the advantages of White Privilege. This Thanksgiving Haggadah is in part a small attempt to change the balance.
I don’t recall which members of my family wrote the original version of this Haggadah, but I do know that it has evolved over the years to combine old and new traditions. It will continue to evolve. If you’re interested, here is a link to the entire document, which still contains at least one typo (“a” for “at”), but you’ll never find it. We also badly need to update some of the statistics, which have surely changed in the last 12 months, and the references to refugees are sadly out of date.