Ah, Thanksgiving Day, and yet another excuse to eat way too much, fall into a semi-coma, then wake up and eat some more.
Or, as acerbic funny person Phyllis Diller phrased it: “My cooking is so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.”
As most of us know, Thanksgiving has special meaning for Americans, as it was the first Americans — as in Native Americans — who joined pilgrims fleeing the United Kingdom in search of religious and government freedom in what became the first Thanksgiving celebration.
The festivities have changed, considerably, over the years.
President Abraham Lincoln gets credit for first declaring Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1863. It came during the American Civil War, a time when our nation was bitterly divided, and truly needed something to bring us back together. Lincoln called it a national day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” The official celebration day was to be the last Thursday in November.
But Thanksgiving has been undergoing changes all along. In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt decided Thanksgiving should be celebrated on the third Thursday in November, and probably didn’t even consider that would also allow a few more shopping days before Christmas. The Black Friday shopping phenomenon didn’t make its appearance until much, much later.
But Americans didn’t seem to like the third-Thursday approach, and Roosevelt caved in 1941, and the White House and Congress reverted to the fourth-Thursday paradigm.
There also is much confusion about what goodies that very first Thanksgiving feast had on the table. Basically, it was what was available, but mostly veggies, berries and some meat. The unification energy from that feast didn’t carry over. The newcomers later turned on their Native American hosts.
That’s all in the past, and today we need to kick back a little, enjoy the bounty from this mostly-agricultural region, and the gathering of family and friends for the celebration.
While you are doing the usual Thanksgiving stuff, you might want to find a quiet place and think about the things in life for which you are thankful.
For example, family is all around you, and you might consider what a blessing that is in a world in which families are being ripped apart by political ideology, warfare and greed.
It is also a good time to think about the generations represented around the Thanksgiving dinner table — kids, parents and their parents. You might also take a few moments to thank the person doing the cooking, which in most cases will be Mom.
Go beyond your own sphere, call the people you know and love, spend a few minutes telling them about your life and asking about their lives.
It may seem like a cliche, but after the Thanksgiving meal prayer, work around the table, asking each participant what she or he is thankful for. Pay close attention to what the youngest people say, because that’s a clue to our future. Pay homage to what the oldest folks at the table say, because that is our heritage.
But most of all, be aware that Thanksgiving is far more than the eve of the biggest shopping day of the year. It is why most of us are here, in the greatest nation on the planet.
Or as the late columnist Erma Bombeck once wrote: “Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence. ”
Let’s all be so very thankful that we can still take the time to laugh.