Thanksgiving approacheth and whatís an American
in Den Haag to do? Turns out, plenty, but thereís no football
involved which is disorienting.
It seems that there will be a
nondenominational service at a place in Leiden, about ten miles from
Den Haag, called
(Peterís Church), consecrated in 1121. This hasnít been used
regularly as a church in more than a hundred years and the
Thanksgiving service is the only service held there each year. There
are about 30,000 Americans in The Netherlands and a few of them come
to this service which is attended by the American ambassador. There
is an American significance to this church. All you American born
folks know that the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and
had a grand old time with the folks we used to call Indians but
generally refer to now as Native Americans. Everything was so
terrific that they had this dinner in 1621 after the harvest which
is regarded as the first Thanksgiving. Thatís what I always knew
along with some other assumptions I didnít realize I was making.
First, I assumed that the Pilgrims came from
England. They did originally but when they left England, they went
first to Leiden. (I first learned this a few months ago from Mike
Levin, an American born in Russia. Itís embarrassing to learn
American history from someone born in Russia!) Pieterskerk was their
church and the neighborhood around it their home. There is even the
Pilgrim Museum that has exhibits on their way of life.
While reading about the Pilgrims in Leiden, I
discovered some other things that were floating around the back of
my head that I had never explored. Among the things I learned are
that our Native American cousins donít celebrate Thanksgiving
exactly like we do and Iím not talking about the football part. They
The National Day of Mourning. Sounds pretty ominous. The
European settlers were pretty rotten in their treatment of those
they found here and gave them a raw deal over then next two
centuries. We Americans like to always think of ourselves as the
good guys with the white hats spreading freedom and liberty around
to everyone and recently, with a direct hotline to the Almighty. Yet
with our history of slavery and the Japanese internment during World
War II along with the treatment of Native Americans, perhaps we
ought to be more aware that the white hat has at least a few smudges
of dirt. That same history ought to teach us that there are others,
different from us, who also have a legitimate point of view.
But I digress. I do that a lot.
We discovered after we moved here that a friend
from back home has a cousin who lives in Haarlem with her Dutch
husband. They have invited us to have Thanksgiving dinner with them
and some others on Thursday evening. The owners of this small
apartment/hotel where we are staying are a mixed couple. He is
Dutch, she is American, from Southern California and then Maine.
They are having a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday right here in this
building and have asked us to join them.
So Lynn and I wish you all a terrific American
Thanksgiving and we hope you get to spend it those you love, if not
your families of origin, then certainly your families of choice.
And since I mentioned football several times
earlier in this message, Iíll want to add only one more thing: How
Ďbout them Birds?!?!?