Giving thanks

Thanksgiving is the holiday, always the fourth Thursday in November, that allows us to take a step back from our busy lives to reflect on those busy lives and give thanks. Why is it important to do this? Giving thanks is a way to stay grounded and in the present moment, as everyone on television talk shows seems prone to saying. Since I'm Christian, I give thanks to a higher power for having a life I enjoy populated by people I love.

Whatever your faith, Thanksgiving Day is a time to simply take a look at your life during the past year. It's a way to look back and say, "This was good. This was bad, but I survived. Better times are coming."

We celebrate with food, football games, parades, and family gatherings. Some see it as the eve of the biggest shopping day of the year, the day after Turkey Day, affectionately called Black Friday by retailers who usually go into the black (profit side of the balance sheet) from the sales rung up that day.

Yes, it's become more commercial than spiritual, like most holidays seem to have done. I sometimes think those Pilgrims who fled England, first to New Holland then to America, to escape religious persecution would go into a catatonic shock were they to witness Americans on a typical Thanksgiving Day.

Those brave men and women who boarded the Mayflower, certainly spartan by any standards, and landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, probably thought they'd escaped the frying pan only to land in the fire. That part of the country is formidable in winter.

Their first terrible winter was a struggle just to survive. Many died. Those who survived did so with the assistance of the native people. When the Pilgrims brought in their first harvest in the fall of 1621, there was much for which they gave thanks, not only the bountiful harvest but also the mere fact that they'd made it from one year to the next.

For three days, the colonists celebrated with the tribe who had helped them survive. (Perhaps Congress needs to review the Thanksgiving holiday and extend it by two additional days?)

A hundred years plus a few passed before the holiday we call Thanksgiving became formally established. Many influential Americans wanted to have an official day of thanksgiving, including George Washington, who in 1789 declared a National Day of Thanksgiving. However, there were just as many who did not want this holiday, including President Thomas Jefferson.

The opinion of the White House resident determined whether there would be a holiday to be celebrated. The campaign for Thanksgiving Day continued until 1863 when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

This practice of a presidential proclamation for Thanksgiving continued until President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the third Thursday in November as the holiday in order to lengthen the holiday shopping season which upset many. (That crass commercialism we scorn isn't a modern day invention.) In 1941, Congress made Thanksgiving official by declaring it a national holiday to be celebrated the fourth Thursday in November.

Perhaps we should consider writing our representatives about making the holiday reflect the way our founding fathers celebrated. I mean a three day Thanksgiving would even give us time to exercise more to burn up all those calories we consumed.

In any event, I wish you a fabulous day filled with loving family and friends as well as good food. While you're dozing off after dinner, take a moment to reflect on the goodness in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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