Thanksgiving and What it Means

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in the month of November in the United States. In Canada, they celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. That is a given. But, Thanksgiving and what it means has changed drastically. There is no arguing the fact that Thanksgiving is still a day that people celebrate with fanfare and food. How did it start and where is it at now?

The origin of Thanksgiving dates all the way back to the 16th century. The pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock on December 11th 1620. In the spring of 1621, Squanto, a Native American Indian, taught the pilgrims to survive by growing crops and harvesting food. We are told that they learned to grow corn, beans and pumpkins from the Indians. In the fall of 1621, they held an organized dinner where 90 people were invited to attend, including the Indians. This feast was meant to thank God for his blessings. This dinner has become what historians point to as the original Thanksgiving Day feast.1

The celebration took place for three days. The next time there was such a gathering was in 1623, after another severe drought. Deputy Governor William Bradford, descendant of William Bradford and leader of the Plymouth Colony, proclaimed another day of thanksgiving in the year 1676. History tells us that President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving in the year 1863.2

The traditional Thanksgiving Day parade is a big part of American tradition and got its’ start in Detroit, in the year 1924. After many years of local interest and growth, it began to be televised nationally in 19523.
Thanksgiving always included families getting together to express thanks for all of their blessings. Even though there is no evidence of turkey being served at the first thanksgiving, it is the main attraction at most of our dinner tables. The same holds true for pumpkin pie. What better way to start the day with the smells of a plump , moist turkey roasting in the oven? What better way to cause arguments of when dinner should be than by watching NFL football on television that day?

However, the NFL has played football on Thanksgiving Day starting in 1934, again in Detroit, Michigan. As of 1966, Dallas Texas has started to add a 2nd day game and has only missed two years of not playing on Thanksgiving since then. Then, in 2006, the NFL network added an evening game.4 Some families can literally watch football all day long. Ah, turkey, football and pumpkin pie, what better way to give thanks?

Well, here’s a better way.

Why not use this day as it was intended? What an opportunity for families and loved ones to gather and join together to thank God for all that they have been blessed with? This is not a day for moaning and groaning about what you don’t have or what is not going right in your life. Everyone has troubles and challenges in their lives. But we have good things too.

Some of us have good health. Some have not felt the devastation of the slumping economy. Others have enjoyed long and happy marriages. Some families still have three or four generations that are living and can join together for that one day. Some are blessed with true friendships and can celebrate their day together. Others are just moved in to a new home and have a lot to be happy about. Some people can welcome a new addition to their family.

Yes, I know it can be a sad day too. Many people are unemployed. Others have just recently suffered the tragedy of losing a close family member. It is now that our faith must be at it’s strongest. And somehow, God will provide to us what we need. We still need to thank Him for the food we will enjoy, for the family that still gathers, for the chance at new employment. Make this a day of true gratitude and a smile will appear, even if for a fleeting moment.

Let’s not waste this day as the day before Christmas shopping really heats up or a day to be glued to a television that is displaying football all day. Let’s try and remember the origin of this day when people of different cultures gathered together and gave thanks for their blessings and all that they had to be thankful for. Why not try taking turns going around your Thanksgiving Day dinner table and ask each person to say what they are thankful for before the feast begins? That turkey may just have to wait a couple of minutes longer!

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