Thankful for Thanksgiving

I’ve written short pieces on most of our national holidays this year. I don’t know how many, if any have been read, but even if none, my experiences in refreshing my recollections about each of these special days has more than made my efforts worthwhile – reminding me of why we have them.

National holidays mark those events or people in our nation’s history that helped to make our country great – yes, still great, even in these challenging times. They also serve to bring us together as one people, putting aside various differences for at least a day, to honor and celebrate our common legacy of great deeds and courageous leaders.

While each holiday gives us the opportunity to say thank you to all those who gave us this wonderful country, Thanksgiving Day gives us the opportunity to thank, not only them, but also all those who gave each of us something for which we owe personal gratitude. It also gives us, in our gatherings of family and friends for dinners and parties, a very special forum to express to each other what each has meant to us, and for many, the Lord, for being there for His believers.

We traditionally date the origin of Thanksgiving Day to the Pilgrims’ celebration with Native Americans, on a day they set aside to thank the Lord for bringing them safely to these shores back in 1621 – making it our oldest holiday.

The day became an official national holiday in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November to be a national day of thanksgiving. (President Franklin Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday to the second last Thursday as it is today.)

The first official day of thanks was celebrated just days after Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in the middle of America’s terrible Civil War.

I know for some, a holiday simply means a day off for recreation and Thanksgiving Day means sumptuous meals, football parades and sociability. However, no one can celebrate on this unique day without knowing what it is all about – a realization that we need so many others, their love and support to be who we are, and to do what we do.

Many say that it’s a shame that Thanksgiving somehow gets lost between Halloween and Christmas, or that it’s noted mostly for the beginning of shopping season. While that’s true to some degree, it’s also true that when the day arrives, most Americans know the purpose of Thanksgiving, and throughout the day express their gratitude in their own ways. It’s good that the day is usually a quiet one – perhaps even more so with naps after eating.

It may be that without this day, early in our history, we would not have the other holidays: gratitude is essential to success and to genuine love. That’s what Thanksgiving Day really is – a day set aside for love of family and friends, past and present, and of God and Country. May your Thanksgiving be as meaningful to you as I know mine will be to me. (Please pass the gravy.)

Mel Maurer

Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.

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Volume 3, Issue 23, Posted 4:17 PM, 11.16.2011