Preparing for a Feast -- of Stories

November 15, 2006

Nov. 15, 2006 -- “This Common Feast: The Thanksgiving Project,” a venture of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities' South Atlantic Humanities Center, will be setting a table on the Downtown Mall, Saturday, Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This “Thanksgiving table” will feature not water goblets, plates, and napkins, but rather an exhibit on the curious origins and development of the holiday.

This oral history and folklife project aims to document how communities in the region between
the Caribbean and the Potomac experience this holiday. Visitors can share their Thanksgiving stories through the project’s Web site or by signing up for an interview.

While the main cultural icons of Thanksgiving involve a family gathered for a meal, with turkey at
the center, the holiday has been observed in many different ways. Certainly a shared meal has long been central to the day; but the celebration has also involved hunting, playing or watching football, parades, acts of charity or community service, public merry-making and religious services.

For military personnel overseas, Thanksgiving has, for more than a century, meant a crucial ritual link to family — a meaning it also holds for many college students and for others far from home. The holiday also makes a statement about this country’s origins, providing an occasion for celebration, reflection and at times critique regarding American history — particularly in connection with
Native Americans.

Pablo Davis, scholar and program director of the South Atlantic Humanities Center at the Virginia
Foundation for the Humanities, is heading this project.