Giving thanks

Today’s a day to count blessings and remember the good things in our lives
Nov. 22, 2012 @ 12:43 AM

It may be a tad easier to feel thankful this year. There remains much to worry about, but things are getting better. There is strife in the world, but at home the economy seems to be improving and business is better.

Through it all we somehow manage, at Thanksgiving, to remember our blessings, to realize we live in a great country with opportunities and fulfillment available to all.

The Thanksgiving story has been embellished over the centuries, but at its core is a belief in others and a genuine human desire to be grateful for what we have, even as we struggle.

What we recognize as the first Thanksgiving feast was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims of the Plymouth colony along with about 90 Wampanoag Indians. The Pilgrims had suffered through a winter in which nearly half of them died. Without the help of the Indians, all would have died.

After the first harvest, Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer to God. The food, which was eaten outdoors, included corn, geese, turkeys, ducks, eel, clams, leeks, plums, cod, bass, barley, venison and corn bread. The feast lasted three days in late autumn.

In 1623, a period of drought was answered with a proclamation of prayer and fasting. This was changed to another thanksgiving celebration when rains came during the prayers. Later that year, Gov. Bradford proclaimed Nov. 29 as a time for Pilgrims to gather and “listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

In 1789, George Washington proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday in November, in honor of the new Constitution. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, later discontinued it, calling it “a kingly practice.”

In 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” is said to have convinced Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving a national holiday. For the date she chose the last Thursday in November because of Washington’s proclamation. In 1941, it was officially changed to the fourth Thursday in November.

Let us be truly thankful today for what we can celebrate and cherish — family, health, togetherness, love, peace, understanding, compassion. A national day of thanksgiving is a wonderful gift — more than a holiday, more than a day off. Rejoice in what it means. Happy Thanksgiving.