A letter to the editor the other day bemoaned how people get so caught up in the food and logistics of Thanksgiving that they forget the point of the day. I can sympathize with the point about logistics, which can be overwhelming for people traveling or hosting large gatherings. But really, the whole point of Thanksgiving IS the food. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, after all, a chance to give thanks for nature's bounty. By late November, all the garden produce has been harvested and put up for the winter, animals have been butchered and preserved for the long, cold months (so they don't compete for scarce food), and with luck, enough food has been put by to last until early next summer. This is a reason to celebrate, especially if you are the one doing the harvesting and preserving. Thanksgiving is a chance to use up the last of the year's fresh food, before it goes bad, in a feast (just as Mardi Gras provides a chance to use up the last of the winter's stores of preserved food before the long fast of Lent); it is a time to gather with friends and family, and to express gratitude for the food we eat.
It is a sign of how far removed we are from our food sources that we no longer know this intuitively.