thanksgiving (noun) thanks·giv·ing | \ thaŋ(k)s-ˈgi-viŋ also ˈthaŋ(k)s-ˌgi- \ ng
1) A public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness
2) The act of giving thanks
3) A prayer expressing gratitude
According to The History Channel, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday that commemorates how in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
It was in September 1620, the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.
That is how Merriam Webster defines Thanksgiving… An acknowledgment, an act, and an expression… All wonderful things in their own right. And yet, there is so much more to Thanksgiving. There has to be.
During that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring.
In November 1621, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit celebrated American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days.
So those are the basics of what we celebrate today… that simple act of inclusion and faith that brought disparate people together to share a meal. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states, but it wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
I find it interesting that at arguably the most divided time in our Nation’s history, President Abraham Lincoln chose that occasion— that that upheaval was exactly the right time to set aside a day where the nation would pause, pray, and commemorate an event where people of different cultures, different colors, different faiths, and different traditions overcame those differences and shared what little they had with one another in celebration and thanksgiving.
I also find it interesting how in these current times, when our nation remains divided in so many ways we had long believed, or more likely hoped, were behind us, that we still choose to take the time —this one day each year —and go through the motions of preparing and sharing a meal. WE share this meal with our families and our friends…
Some even do so for people that are not their family or close friends, but rather with charitable organizations that provide food, clothing, and shelter to those less fortunate. We choose to be thankful and to share our bounty with each other and with those who may not have such bounty. It’s a choice. And a choice is a verb…an action. A thing we do.
So, if this thing is a choice – a thing we do – what limits us to do so only this one day each year. Why don’t we choose to be thankful and share the things we are thankful for with each other and with others regularly. Or perhaps even a little every day? Waking up thankful – in “Thanksgiving” – is a choice. And that’s a verb. An action we can take.
So, what’s stopping us? Can’t we do a little better than this one day each year? I will choose to be thankful. And I will endeavor to make that choice every day. And maybe… just maybe… we can have a little “Thanksgiving” every day of the year. And by the way…I am thankful for all of you.
In unity and solidarity,