Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. A chance to be grateful instead of focusing on gift-giving and gift-receiving. Family, friends, bountiful feasts and football are at the forefront of our minds rather than cocktail parties and gifts. Think of it as a time to pause and give thanks before the whirlwind of December.
Thanksgiving began in 1621. The pilgrims invited the Wampanoag Native Americans to join them in celebration of the fall harvest. The Native Americans traveled for several days, created their own camp and stayed with the pilgrims for three days of feasting and celebration. This first Thanksgiving sounds similar to our tradition of family members invading the home of others in their family for days on end.
The holiday received official status in 1789, with George Washington’s first presidential proclamation, which designated the 26th day of November next, to be set aside for thanksgiving. “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor,” he wrote.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving after the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, acknowledging “The gracious gifts of the Most High God” and noting that it “seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” Lincoln invited his fellow citizens to observe “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
After being observed at various times between the third and fourth weeks in November, Thanksgiving was given a permanent date in 1941 when President Roosevelt signed legislation declaring it on the 4th Thursday in November.
Possibly before the Thanksgiving meal we might pause for a few moments to say thanks for all the blessings that we have been given in life, which, at least for me, include the following:
— Living in a country where you can express your opinion, even if no one else agrees with you
— Being able to vote
— A warm home on a cold night
— Pets who love you no matter what
— Parents who find the time to participate in their children’s schools
— Teachers who are concerned about every child in their classroom
— People you do not know, who will smile and assist you when you are in need
— People you know, who will still smile and assist you when you are in need
— Being healthy and active
— Family to share the holidays with
— Friends who go out of their way for you
— Foot massages
— Hot chocolate
— Feeling grace when you do not expect it
— Watching my children change and grow
— Changes in life, without which you would be bored
— Laughing so hard that you cry
— Reading a book so touching that you cry
— Watching children experience joy by simply being alive
— Occasionally being able to experience that same joy yourself
— Friends who celebrate milestones with you
— Bright sunshine on a cold day
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful; it also provides an opportunity to give to others who might need additional help or support. Giving can come in the form of time, money or talents. This Thanksgiving, take the opportunity to not only give thanks, but also to give to those in need, thereby giving them a reason to be grateful as well.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.