SAN DIEGO, November 26, 2013 — Thanksgiving Day in America is traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed a joint resolution with Congress to establish this tradition on December 26, 1941.
For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, watch football, enjoy an extended weekend, and benefit from the discounts and bargains while holiday shopping on Black Friday.
For the Pilgrims who celebrated the original Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, this occasion was an entirely different matter.
Arriving in America in the 1620’s having sailed on the Mayflower from England to America, the brave passengers were ravaged by disease and the brutal New England winter when they arrived.
Of the approximately over 100 Pilgrims, only half survived aboard the ship until the weather subsided.
The Mayflower sailed across Massachusetts Bay where the Pilgrims established their fragile, new village in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Unprepared for their new habitat, they were fortunately aided by an Indian named Squanto, a Native American from the Patuxet tribe recently returning from London. He taught the malnourished Pilgrims, whose resources were dwindling, how to plant, harvest, hunt, and thrive through proper utilization of America’s bountiful natural resources.
Creating a bridge with the Wampanoag Indians, the Pilgrims joined them in celebration of the original American Thanksgiving feast in 1621. With depleted supplies, and only a surplus of corn, the Wampanoag provided deer, Native American food, hearty spices, and good-will.
The original Thanksgiving of 1621 was a special time in American history, where thanks were abundantly expressed for the harvests and bounty of their day. The Christian Pilgrims prayed to God thanking him for his glory. The Wampanoag praised their higher power for theirs.
Over many centuries, Thanksgiving Day has gone through a variety of transformations, including the date on which it occurred.
According to ChristianAnswers.net, following the original Thanksgiving of 1621, President Henry Laurens of the Continental Congress proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as the third Thursday of December, 1777.
President George Washington established February 19 as Thanksgiving Day during his 1795 National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, in which he stated that it was in part being established “with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude.”
President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, established the last day of November as Thanksgiving Day by act of Congress, saying that “we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us,” published on abrahamlincolnonline.org .
Finally, President Franklin Roosevelt established the fourth Thursday day of November as Thanksgiving Day by a joint act of Congress in 1941. He believed that this day would provide an opportunity for an extended weekend to be enjoyed by the American worker. He also hoped it would help boost the American economy with holiday shopping, which we now fondly call Black Friday.
In today’s mechanized society, with so many basic needs having been met, the nature of work and labor has dramatically changed. With more discretionary time than earlier Americans, commercialism can sometimes overshadow the meaning and spirit of Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving Day is a special time to express, especially with those who are closest family and friends, the gratitude felt for all the gifts in life.
Following in the footsteps of the courageous early Americans, taking stock of life’s bounty and blessings, it might be enlightening and inspiring to create a gratitude list, sharing it with loved ones on Thanksgiving Day.
Encourage them to create their own, and make it a new, shared tradition.
This type of conscious practice of gratitude is considered a key factor in physical and emotional health and well-being.
In fact, psychology professor Lisa Aspinwall with the University of Utah, as published in Healthline.com, “A Dose of Healthy Gratitude: How Being Thankful Can Keep you Healthy,” had the following to suggest:
Grateful people are more likely to:
-Take better care of themselves physically and mentally
-Engage in more protective health behaviors and maintenance
-Get more regular exercise
-Eat a healthier diet
-Have improved mental alertness
-Schedule regular physical examinations with their doctor
-Cope better with stress and daily challenges
-Feel happier and more optimistic
-Avoid problematic physical symptoms
-Have stronger immune systems
-Maintain a brighter view of life
In a quotation from H. U. Westermayer, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”
As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day, and the following holidays, may it be with joy and gratitude.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities” columnist since 2011, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
Copyright © 2013 by At Your Home Familycare
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