Thanksgiving is truly a special day. It was first celebrated in 1621 when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians shared a fall harvest. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering.
Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the lost of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621.
In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance. It would take a span of over 150 more years to establish Thanksgiving as we celebrate it — George Washington proclaimed it a National holiday in 1789, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November in 1863, and Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941. In the United States, Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in November.
The “First Thanksgiving” is a mixture of both history and myth. But the THEME of Thanksgiving has truth and integrity far above and beyond what we and our forebearers have made of it. Thanksgiving is a bigger concept than just the story of the founding of the Plymouth Plantation.
When we think of Thanksgiving we conjure up thoughts of leaves that have changed color and are falling from trees. We also think of visiting with family and friends, and watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade either in person or on television. Of course there are the traditional football games on television. Our memories also remind us of turkey dinners with all of the holiday trimmings; including stuffing! How many of us have had to loosen our belt a bit after a festive Thanksgiving Day dinner!
Thanksgiving Day is more than a day of fond memories, parades, football, and special dinners. It is also a day of thanks. On Thanksgiving Day we are reminded of the bounty of treasures that is a part of our lives. We spend a few moments before the Thanksgiving dinner to give thanks for the richness of our lives and for our wonderful family and friends. For too many people, however, the meaning of Thanksgiving ends with spending a few moments giving of giving thanks at the dinner table.
The true meaning of Thanksgiving, however, should not end after a prayer or a few seconds of meditation devoted to thanks. The Holiday of Thanksgiving has broader significance. Thanksgiving is also a call to action. It is important for us to remember that the word thanksgiving is composed of two words: thanks and giving.
Through the Holiday of Thanksgiving we are reminded to give thanks and to share and give. The Holiday reminds us to share our economic and material wealth, and to share also our time and talents with other people who could use our help. In terms of thought and deed, the Holiday of Thanksgiving gives us an enriched perspective on the abundance in our lives.
This Thanksgiving Day take a moment and reflect on what actions you can take in the next year to fully express the meaning of Thanksgiving. Can you think of a way to free-up one hour each week so that you can give that time to someone in need? What would you do during that time? By giving of your time and talent you are acknowledging that there is abundance in your life.