Thanksgiving Day has had a strong tradition in American Christendom. It is one of the pillars of our civic religion. The story of Pilgrims fleeing to these shores because of religious persecution, enduring frontier hardship and then giving thanks to God in a multicultural feast is probably not entirely factual, but the declaration by government leaders of days of prayer and days of praise is repeatedly grounded in our history. More than that Thanksgiving has for a long time functioned to give religious sanction to the value of progress.
What meaning can it have now that most of the families in new generations probably will not see material progress over the socio-economic status of their parents and grandparents? It already seems odd to some Christian young adults to celebrate "blessings" that are (1) widely taken for granted and (2) slimmer for each successive generation.
It seems to me that Thanksgiving can have another spiritual function. It can be used as a special day to teach how to live from an attitude of gratitude. That's not just a catchy sermon title. It is a foundational Christian teaching and particularly appropriate when the minimum wage melts down, the safety net is shredded, and college moves out of reach or requires a debt load that will last until your own children are old enough to go. It is easy to be grateful to God when one is constantly doing better, better than Mom and Dad ever did. It requires real values, moral clarity and strong character to praise the Lord for slim pickings. An attitude of gratitude is most needed when it is hard to see what there is to be thankful for; when the "worldly" view counts little gain, it takes exceptional spiritual "sight" to see blessings. Yet this generous view of a simple life is a core element of following Jesus.
What kind of Thanksgiving Day educates in this direction? Who has experimented with teaching these ideas to Gen X and Millennials?