Thanksgiving: Yesterday and Today…

indian at sunset

Thanksgiving Yesterday

For those of us who grew up in the United States,  we were all taught about the origin of Thanksgiving, where settlers and Native Americans came together to have a feast… a feast to celebrate the harvest before winter set in.  We have seen pictures depicting Thanksgiving with a Horn of Plenty (or cornucopia for you walking dictionary types), a huge turkey, English settlers and Native Americans  gathered together.  The Wampanoag tribe were the people who taught the English how to grow corn and they participated in the hunt for deer for the first celebration.  From some of the research I have done (okay, I admit it was really a brief skimming of articles on the Internet…), giving thanks was not really part of the celebration until a few years later (1623) when the colonists gave thanks to God for the rain that came after a two month drought.

It wasn’t until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared a day to be Thanksgiving… well actually he declared two Thanksgivings that year: one in August to celebrate the Battle of Gettysburg and the November day to give thanks for overall blessings.  I am actually giving thanks right now for the Internet where I obtained this information at… sure beats the heck out of trudging out on a cold morning to hit the library to do research (which I am pretty confident would have never occurred…).

Thanksgiving in the 1600’s was about a group of people believing in something so strongly that they risked everything they had to pursue their vision (a group of English Protestants wanting to break away from the Church of England).  That first meal with the Wampanoag tribe was about coming together as a community to have a celebration about harvesting food to survive the long and potentially harsh winter ahead.  It was about learning and adapting to a new way of life with a group of people who were different… different in how they looked… the clothes they wore… the language they spoke… the food they ate… and the overall culture in which they lived.

Thanksgiving Today

Today,  Thanksgiving has continued the tradition of eating heartily with a celebration of food among family and friends.   This year I also noticed that the tradition of being grateful seems to have grown dramatically.  There have been daily gratitude comments on Facebook by my friends,  I have been getting the 21 Days of Gratitude series from the Mentors Channel (presented by Louis Schwartzberg) on my daily email and small business owners are sending me out messages of thanks for doing business with them.  Local and national news media are not only reporting the negative stories that are going on in our world but are also sharing stories of hope and passion.

I am seeing some of the same intentions today that were the hallmark of that Thanksgiving of almost 400 years ago:

  • People are standing up for their beliefs and willing to take action to pursue their vision(s).  In 2013, a handful of large retail corporations are willing to forgo financial gain for a day by not opening their stores on Thanksgiving to allow their staff to spend the holiday with their families.  This is truly standing up for a belief that is not necessarily popular to many and it definitely will make an impact on the their profits (hmm, maybe they will make up for the lost sales because buyers will be supportive of their decision to make family first…).
  • People are sharing their gratitude across the world through the Internet.  People of all races, lifestyles and religious beliefs are coming together to give thanks for what they have in their lives…. gratitude definitely has no boundaries… much like the Wampanoag and the English setters.

When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others

~Dalai Lama

What are you most grateful for today?

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