Thanksgiving and the Fast of Christmas

Thanksgiving for Americans is a family event. The roots of this feast are found in the inclination of the human heart to offer thanks to God for the abundance of blessings which He has bestowed upon us. Theologically speaking, this feast is an extension of the Divine Liturgy – the Holy Eucharist (in Greek “Eucharistia”=thanksgiving).

As Orthodox Christians, who value the unity and strength of the family, we are inclined to adopt this feast as our own, especially at a time when the institution of the family is under attack from all directions. Considering the traditional Thanksgiving meal, however, which involves turkey, ham and dairy products, Orthodox Christians trying to hold the fast of Christmas are faced with the dilemma: Should I hold the fast and go contrary to the established social and cultural norms associated with Thanksgiving Day or should I break the fast in order to facilitate the need of blending in and not making others uncomfortable with my presence?

Several years ago, responding to the request of the faithful under its jurisdiction in America, the Patriarchate of Constantinople applying “economia” discreetly granted its blessing for those who live in America to break the fast on Thanksgiving Day while focusing on the unity of the family and the “eucharistic” aspects of this feast, but quickly return to the observance of the fast immediately afterwards. The non-Orthodox cultural norm is thus transformed through our theology and this pastoral approach to a positive element for the strengthening of family bonds, while keeping with the necessity of our spiritual ascesis of fasting.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Fr. Panayiotis