It’s almost time for turkey and stuffing and all the fixings. People are getting ready to jump into cars and board planes to be with family for the holiday. There is much to look forward to and appreciate about this fall holiday—the food, of course, but also the time with family and friends, the traditions, the football, the fall weather, and the ushering in of the holiday season.

While I’m sure most of us are looking forward to the food, time with family, and perhaps time off work, I wonder how many of us are reflecting on the First Thanksgiving.

A Mini History Lesson

We’ve all heard the story in elementary school of the Pilgrims’ celebration of the abundance they experienced after a particularly harsh first winter in the New World. Despite their hardships, the Pilgrims were thankful for the opportunities ahead of them in this new land, and so, along with their Native American friends, they feasted to celebrate.

Later, in 1789, President George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday. Still later in our national history, President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November to be the annual, nationally-observed holiday of Thanksgiving which Americans have celebrated ever since.

Perhaps this little history lesson is something you already know, but I find that we are likely to forget our history and its significance if we don’t regularly remind ourselves of it.

Remembering the Purpose of This Holiday

Thanksgiving is not only a reminder of where we have been as a nation and how far we have come; it’s a reminder to be thankful for this rich history. And as we all know, that history has been fraught with struggle, but I bet that each of us can find something (or many things!) to be thankful for if we focus on being grateful rather than begrudging others for what they have and we don’t. And once we adopt an attitude of thankfulness, generosity becomes the natural next step.

I’ll close these brief Thanksgiving Day thoughts with a fitting quote from President Ronald Reagan:

“In this spirit, Thanksgiving has become a day when Americans extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Long before there was a government welfare program, this spirit of voluntary giving was ingrained in the American character. Americans have always understood that, truly, one must give in order to receive. This should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks.”

Happy Thanksgiving!


Photo courtesy: iStock/bhofack2

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