Many readers may recall the line “over the river and through the wood” as part of a song called A Merry Christmas at Grandmother’s, but the song was originally a Thanksgiving tune, with the ultimate destination Grandfather’s house.
And, the song was originally a poem called “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day” written in the 1840s by Lydia Maria Child, a remarkable Unitarian who advocated for women’s rights and the rights of Native Americans. A novelist ahead of her time, she also followed the track of abolitionism in the 19th Century, first advocating a pacifist approach yet later accepting the unfortunate need for violence to effect the liberation of African-American slaves.
As we celebrate the 12 Days of Thanksgiving, it is important to honor the author who wrote the most well-known Thanksgiving lyrics, and who exemplified the Reform Unitarian approach to this season, open to the joy and practical virtue of meetings between cultures, while still keeping eyes open to the tragic consequences that often attend to those meetings.
May God bless the memory of Lydia Maria Child.