Meridian Star

November 29, 2013

We gather together …

By Anne McKee
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — This is the week of Thanksgiving. The kids have a week off from school for Thanksgiving vacation. Many adults, especially the military, arrange to take vacation this week as well. The week will be filled with family-oriented activities – truly family time.

         Some look forward to the Thanksgiving meal with grandma. Others will courageously fight the crowds to shop Christmas bargains that are traditionally available this week — best savings of the year. Many consider the “Black Friday” shopping tradition as a uniquely holiday family outing. Die-hard football fans will attend the big game or watch it (and the parade) on TV, and those who enjoy the outdoors will head for the deer camp.

         Shop-till-you-drop, bake the turkey, prepare granny’s pecan pie recipe and forget the diet this week. Sit by the fire or gas logs, watch old movies, especially with a holiday theme, wrap gifts, contact relatives who were unable to come home for Thanksgiving, attend special church services, and pray Thanksgiving prayers for the blessed bounty.

         Yes, these are the days-of-Thanksgiving, 2013.

         My favorite Thanksgiving hymn is “We Gather Together” originally written in 1597. The hymn was penned during the Dutch war of national liberation against the Catholic King Philip II of Spain. During this time, the Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship.

     Can you imagine? As Americans prance around traveling, shopping, eating, and enjoying family time together during this Thanksgiving of 2013, do we think of such things – a people were not allowed to worship because they were Protestants?

    We Gather Together, by Theodore Baker (first verse)

    "We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;

    He chastens and hastens His will to make known.

    The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.

    Sing praises to His name; He forgets not His own."

         Today, the song we sing is performed to a Dutch folk tune “Kremser” – the score from 1877 by Edward Kremser and lyric translation of Wilt Heden Nu Treden into Latin and German and translated into English by Theodore Baker, 1894. “We Gather Together” was the first hymn chosen when America made the decision to abandon the 17th century tradition of only psalms in the hymn books.

    America’s favorite illustrator, Norman Rockwell, expressed Thanksgiving sentiments, perhaps, better than any other. In the Dec. 1, 1917, issue of "The Country Gentlemen," Cousin Reginald carrying a hatchet, a favorite Rockwell character, is seen being chased around the barnyard by ole tom turkey and the turkey might just win. The illustration is entitled Catch the Turkey.

    In the Nov. 17, 1921, issue of Life Magazine, entitled Pilgrims Progress, shows a young boy, a Pilgrim, running home with a dead turkey tucked under his arm and hotly pursued by Indian arrows. Perhaps the young man had trespassed into a favorite Indian hunting ground.

         Nov. 24, 1945, issue of Saturday Evening Post entitled Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes. The son is dressed in a WWII soldier’s uniform and his mother in a print housedress, with a white apron. It would seem the soldier is sharing his new potato-peeling-expertise, as the result of serving KP duty.

         I suppose my favorite Rockwell painting is Freedom from Want created in 1943 (one of four of a collection known as Four Freedoms). Rockwell said he was inspired by a speech entitled Four Freedoms made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Jan. 6, 1941, State of the Union Address. The painting depicts a family gathered together at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The grandmother, assisted by grandfather, is placing the golden browned turkey in the center of a dining table, with smiling faces gathered together, each family member seated at their appointed places.

         My hope is this week during Thanksgiving, 2013, you may gather together with family and friends.

    Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. Visit her website: