Although our northern neighbors, Canda, also celebrate Thanksgiving, "this day is a particularly unique American holiday. The word evokes images of football, family get togethers, roasted turkey with stuffing, pumpkin pie and, of course, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians, the acknowledged founders of the feast."
To give a brief history of this day and according to "Plymouth Plantation's" on-line website,
The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777. A somber event, it specifically recommended “that servile labor and such recreations (although at other times innocent) may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment [and should] be omitted on so solemn an occasion.”
Presidents Washington, Adams and Monroe proclaimed national Thanksgivings, but the custom fell out of use by 1815, after which the celebration of the holiday was limited to individual state observances. By the 1850s, almost every state and territory celebrated Thanksgiving.
Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879). Many people felt that this family holiday should be a national celebration, especially Sarah Josepha Hale, the influential editor of the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book. In 1827, she began a campaign to reinstate the holiday after the model of the first Presidents. She publicly petitioned several Presidents to make it an annual event. Sarah Josepha Hale’s efforts finally succeeded in 1863, when she was able to convince President Lincoln that a national Thanksgiving might serve to unite a war-torn country. The President declared two national Thanksgivings that year, one for August 6 celebrating the victory at Gettysburg and a second for the last Thursday in November.
Neither Lincoln nor his successors, however, made the holiday a fixed annual event. A President still had to proclaim Thanksgiving each year, and the last Thursday in November became the customary date. In a controversial move, Franklin Delano Roosevelt lengthened the Christmas shopping season by declaring Thanksgiving for the next-to-the-last Thursday in November. Two years later, in 1941, Congress responded by permanently establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday in the month.
If there is one day each year when food and family take center stage, it is Thanksgiving. It is a holiday about “going home” with all the emotional content those two words imply. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is always the busiest travel day of the year in the United States. Each day of the long Thanksgiving weekend, more than 10 million people take to the skies. Another 40 million Americans drive 100 miles or more to have Thanksgiving dinner. And the nation’s railways teem with travelers going home for the holiday.
Despite modern-age turmoil—and perhaps, even more so, because of it—gathering together in grateful appreciation for a Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family is a deeply meaningful and comforting annual ritual to most Americans. The need to connect with loved ones and to express our gratitude is at the heart of all this feasting, prayerful thanks, recreation, and nostalgia for a simpler time. And somewhere in the bustling activity of every November's Thanksgiving is the abiding National memory of a moment in Plymouth, nearly 400 years ago, when two distinct cultures, on the brink of profound and irrevocable change, shared an autumn feast.
Today, even though Thanksgiving has become more of secular holiday with it's perverted Black Friday tradition of setting off the mad rush of only so more shopping days til Christmas and a strong call to consume, consume and to buy more and more, we oft overlook this important day of giving thanks for the bountiful harvest we are fortunate enough to receive as well as our many other individual blessings. I would propose that, if we had 364 days of Thanksgiving and one day a year to bitch and moan about our misfortunes, we would be a much more grateful, happier, although somewhat more portly --- nation.
And that brings me to the important issue of Daily Gratitude. My father Ed used to say. "if a man can meet each new day with a grateful heart, then his daily battle is half the way won." Of course, as I get older this saying often takes on greater significance or meaning. Hell, who am I kidding, everyday I wake up and don't see my name in the obituaries is a good day as far as I'm concerned. None the less, meeting each new day with graditude and thankfullness for it, is a great way to live.
Finally, due to recent events there seems to be a lot of moaning and complaining about the country's current state of affairs. There is even foolish talk about States seceding from the Union. Well, after traveling to more than thirty countries, a number of them third world, I was then and am now also, constantly reminded how fortunate we all are to live in the greatest country in the world. Yes, despite all of our faults and foibles we are still very fortunate to live in beautiful and bountifully blessed America.
So, as we all stand around our food laden tables holding hands giving thanks for our many blessings, we would all do well to remember this, be gratefully thankful for our most good fortune. More importantly though, as my Grandma Alma would often say, "always be thankful for what you yourself have, don't envy those having more, but instead help and pray for those that don't have it as well off as you do."
As always, I am grateful in all things! Most especially though, I am thankful for the compassionate wisdom left me by an unconditional-loving father and a sweet kind beloved grandmother.