Thanksgiving Day is a holiday in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Japan to celebrate the blessings of the past year. The first Thanksgiving is believed to have happened in 1621 when the [colonists] Pilgrims of Plymouth hunted for geese and ducks, killing enough to serve people for almost a week. It is estimated that about 90 American Wampanoag Indians surprised the 50 plus colonists with venison and fowl and possibly fish, eel, shellfish, stews, vegetables, and beer to join the feast (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2022).
They played games by running races, firing guns, and drinking liquor. It was a disorderly affair with people sitting on the ground, eating their plates full of food and struggling to speak in broken English and Wampanoag. During that event, a treaty was sealed between the two groups that lasted only a year when hundreds of colonists and thousands of Native Americans lost their lives during King Philip’s War.
George Washington was the first American president to call for an official Thanksgiving holiday. It was during the Civil War that President Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26th, and it followed thereafter to be the fourth Thursday in November. Each year, the President of the United States issues a Thanksgiving Day proclamation to spare one turkey’s life; unfortunately the remainder of turkeys are not so lucky.
According to the website Turkey Facts, as many as 88% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving, which is around 46 million turkeys eaten in a year (N.A. Finn, 2022). Thanksgiving is the most traveled time of year, with people going to gather and celebrate with their families and friends. The airports and highways are extremely crowded. Entertainment for Thanksgiving includes watching college and professional football games, playing games, and watching the New York City Macy’s holiday parade on television.
I remember Thanksgiving with Friendship Families, in the days of H. Lynn Sheeler, president of Fullerton College from 1950 to 1969. Dr. Sheeler’s wife, along with the YWCA, assigned students from other countries to local families who volunteered to be their emotional and social support. It is with fondness that I look back to the students over the years from India, Africa, and China who were our guests. These events were an integral part of my children’s growing up and accepting people different from them.
Let us celebrate our blessings together as a nation with others regardless of political party affiliation; race and/or skin color; religious background; sexual preference; or that they are simply “different” from us. For we all are people of this world.
I was moved by an article written by a homeless person and thought of others who are probably going to be alone this Thanksgiving. There are so many people who are alone during the holidays for various reasons: some because of estrangements or deaths in the family, some who are homeless, some going through a mental health crisis, etc.
Thanksgiving is a time to not only think of our blessings but to be kind and think of others who are less fortunate.
We need to extend our compassion to those in need whether it be food, shelter, and/or emotional support. As an example of the true meaning of Thanksgiving, I know of a person who is planning to get a permit and serve coffee and rolls to the homeless on the morning of Thanksgiving Day. This is what Thanksgiving means – a time to be grateful for what we have and also to extend our gratitude to others who may need a helping hand! If you know of someone who will be alone for Thanksgiving, invite them to be a part of your festivities.