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Thanksgiving: What a season of gratitude and hope teaches us

During these trying times, I am reminded that this is the season of giving thanks. I will admit that in the past the meaning of Thanksgiving was usually lost under the anticipation and management of a turkey. Nope, not a favorite uncle – a real turkey. And, of course, the dressing and all the other sides. The true meaning was lost somewhere in the planning, buying groceries, setting the table, and baking the pies. (I won’t even mention Black Friday.)

History of Thanksgiving

The core value of the holiday stems from the giving and teaching between the native peoples, the Wampanoag, and the colonists at Plymouth. When the colonists finally left the ship after a cruel and bitter winter, only half of the original people survived. They were greeted by English-speaking Squanto, a native of the Pawtucket tribe. Squanto had been captured and taken to England where he learned English then later escaped to come back to his native home. He taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, catch fish and survive. He cemented the alliance between the local Wampanoag people and the colonists.

The celebration of the autumn harvest, the first Thanksgiving, was in 1621. It was a grand feast that lasted three days. The great chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit, attended with 90 of his men and brought five deer to share. That first Thanksgiving was a feast of friendship, despite drastic differences, as well as a celebration of survival. The alliance between the new colonists and native peoples lasted more than 50 years.

Thanksgiving becomes a national holiday

While states continued the tradition of Thanksgiving, it wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday to be celebrated every year in November. He declared it a day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War, when the nation was divided and at war with itself.

Remembering the first Thanksgiving

It would seem in this time – with the nation still politically divided, rising inflation, gas prices over the moon, and simple groceries out of the reach for many – it would behoove us to remember that first Thanksgiving. Then, it was the coming together of diverse people with different beliefs and lives. It was the community of people sharing the bounty of the fall harvest and giving thanks. Giving thanks for one another, for food, shelter and survival.

Survival

More than half of the Plymouth group died that first winter. I am sure they were hoping to survive what again could be a harsh and cruel winter. In a sense, we have done the same: Hoping to survive what has been a harsh and cruel winter and summer… holding out for hope.

We have survived nearly two years where we watched the daily COVID death toll climb, businesses being shut down, lockdowns, evictions, the economy in shambles, our nation being torn apart, and, at least for me, an undercurrent of fear.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving, a day of giving thanks, reminds us of all we have, despite what we don’t have, despite our differences. It is a day of hope for family, friends and our nation to be united.

Last year our family met on Thanksgiving outside with masks and social distance. My 97-year-old dad was in his scooter making jokes. This year my dad is dying, and we may be celebrating around his hospital bed, thankful that he has been with us another year. No turkey, though. This year is bratwurst, beans and pumpkin pie – his favorite. It is a day to be grateful.

I will be grateful, filled with thanks for life, family and friends. Not just on this one special day, but every day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you.

##RVT1027

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Vincee
16 days ago

My dad passed a week before Thanksgiving when I was 12 years old and more recently I’ve lost two brothers-in-law within the last couple of Thanksgiving seasons. Even as I write this I may lose my 95-year-old neighbor any day now whom I’ve had the sheer pleasure of living next to for the past 40 plus years. For some reason, the Thanks for me during Thanksgiving is that I’m still here, enjoying the ever-diminishing adult family members of my family but marveling in the joy and growth of 10 grandkids along with our sons and daughters, and our nieces and nephews and their swarm youngins.

Lindalee
17 days ago

Beautiful article, Nanci! I’m sorry to hear about your father BUT you have a lot to be grateful for, even there. I lost my daddy to cancer when he was only 67. My mother lived to 91 but the last three years she didn’t know who I was and I’d already lost my sister (age 39), too. Someone ALWAYS has things worse than you (or me) so we have BUNCHES to be thankful for. Someone in these comments said he thanks God each day he wakes up and his feet hit the floor – I know the feeling. At 73 I have aches and pains but, I’m still on this side of the dirt and I’m very thankful for that!

My thoughts and prayers will be with you this Thanksgiving. Stay well and stay safe and maybe someday I’ll see you down the road.

Nancy Nicholson
18 days ago

Nanci, I’m sorry for the grief your family is processing right now. I love the idea of beans and brats!

But the the history of the Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag, is not what we all learned in school. A more accurate version is captured here in Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/

Maridocs
18 days ago

That you Nanci. Very well said.

Glenda Alexander
18 days ago

Thank you, Nanci. I’m sorry for your father’s illness. I’m reminded of the loss of my own father, at age 92+, on Thanksgiving Day 1994. I agree with you, though, that we have so much to be thankful for. I just wish everyone would concentrate on that instead of all our differences. Life would be so much more pleasant.

Leslie P
18 days ago

Thank you Nanci. You always help see the great things about our lives. I look forward to seeing you both soon. Happy Thanksgiving and a great reminder.

Dick and Sandy near Buffalo, NY
18 days ago

Great story. We all have so many things to be thankful for. Stay safe, Satay well

Traveler
18 days ago

Hugs to your family and father and bratwurst!

Donald Schneider
18 days ago

Nanci,
Thank you for reminding us what Thanksgiving is all about. May we all celebrate in peace and remember things we are thankful for.

Glen Cowgill
18 days ago

Nanci, thanks for the wonderful read. I, and my family, have celebrated Thanksgiving every year. It is a special time for us to reflect on those and the things that we are thankful for. My return from Vietnam, my daughter the police officer still being with us, my surviving cancer, my wife surviving a heart attack, my grandson surviving a bad car accident and all the other things we have to be thankful for.

We don’t need a national holiday to remind us to be grateful for the everyday successes that is a part of life. I thank God each and every morning I wake up and my feet touch the floor. The aches and pains remind me I am still alive. God is good to us each and every day.

Bob p
18 days ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Amen! And a touching article that momentarily takes the turmoil our country is in.

Peter Nyvall
18 days ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

That is the reason of Thanksgiving, thanking GOD for his providence for us!
So much of Thanksgiving to GOD, is lost to all that goes on during this time.

Kenneth Fuller
17 days ago
Reply to  Peter Nyvall

Amen – “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Arkay Smyth
16 days ago
Reply to  Kenneth Fuller

Thak you Kenneth….