Obviously, there was no Thanksgiving in Regency England, nor is there now, of course, since it originated with the pilgrims who came to the new world to escape religious persecution, and who celebrated one year of survival (well, certainly not all of them survived, but those who did celebrated), by inviting the native people of the surrounding area to join them in a harvest feast. Americans are taught that they all got along, and everyone shared in the bounty.
I know some people who do not celebrate Thanksgiving because of disagreement with that origin story, or perhaps in protest of what did happen later to the Native Americans at the hands of the colonists and pioneers, but I’m not here to go into all of that. I think that, for most of us, we like to make the day an opportunity to gather with family and/or friends to acknowledge whatever gifts we have been given – whether that’s enough abundance to throw a feast, or enough friends and/or family to pull one together. Some people go around the table and say what they are thankful for, and that’s a nice tradition in my view.
If I were gathered with all of you around a table, what would we discuss, and what would we say we were thankful for? Some would surely say health, love, or plenty, but not everyone has those things. If it were us, those who are readers and writers of JAFF, sitting down at a Thanksgiving table together, whether American, British, or from elsewhere, I imagine we would say we were thankful, first, for Jane Austen and her writing. She has brought so much joy to our lives. And even if it weren’t for the JAFF phenomenon, we would still consider ourselves lucky to have the works she has given us. Second, the writers among us might say we were grateful for whatever success we’ve had with our variations, or, more importantly, that we’ve had the opportunity to share them with appreciative readers, and the readers (though many of us are readers AND writers) might say they are grateful for the abundance of stories out there to enjoy.
At this imaginary table of ours, I think it would be fun to talk about what Jane would say she was grateful for if she were there. Depending on what point in her life she was at, she would certainly say family, and she would probably say she was grateful for her ability to tell a story, whether she had been published yet or not. After she had been published and sold the modest number of books that she did, she would certainly be grateful for the money that came to her from those sales, as money was always scarce for her as an adult.
Of course, if Jane were actually there, we would all probably be too overwhelmed by the mere fact of her presence to say anything coherent, but it’s fun to imagine the conversation we might have if we were to have any presence of mind at all.
For now though, since we live in many different places and come from different cultures and traditions, this forum must be our table, our place of sharing. So, rather than ask the typical, “what are you grateful for?” how about this? “What do you think you and your guests would talk about with Jane Austen if she were to join you for a holiday meal?” I look forward to your answers!