Known to church-goers through the years as ‘The Doxology,’ the lyrics are “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

I’ve always appreciated the strong, rhythmic beat that accompanies these words of worship. I’ve also appreciated the hymn’s closing “Amen” that echoes a strong, affirmative “so be it!” Attributed to Thomas Ken in 1674, the hymn serves well as a great anthem for the year-round meaning of Thanksgiving.

This year, many well-planned observances will be centered on Thanksgiving. Even though stories, drawings and devised pictures indicate the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 was likely also well-structured, evidence indicates that it probably didn’t involve a lot of planning, that it was more of a spontaneous “praise giving to God” as the Pilgrims considered their survival of a dreadful winter followed by a harvest they felt was sufficient enough to carry them through the upcoming cold weather — a “praise giving” that became a tradition.

Pilgrim and Native American families gathered together on that first Thanksgiving, and families have remained a central part of the tradition.

Since God created marriage and the family concept, the Thanksgiving emphasis should always center around the family praising and thanking God for all he has done and for his presence and available leadership during the ups, downs, trials and triumphs of our lives. At the same time, our families can grow and mature in God’s image to reach out with love and help to others.

I read an article comprised of contributions from people nationwide in response to the question: “What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?” Of the 50 printed responses, all of them involved families — some humorous, some very touching, and some a combination. One of them, in a way, reminded me of the 1621 gathering when participants brought what they had to the meal while taking care to prepare sustenance for the upcoming seasons. The story was titled “Feeding the Multitude.”

It was Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, 1972. The storyteller and her fiancé were saving to get married and go on a honeymoon in a few weeks, so they didn’t have money for a Thanksgiving dinner. She called other family members who couldn’t afford to cook their Thanksgiving dinner either and they all chipped in for a pot-luck meal. She said it turned out wonderfully well. Arranging a makeshift table in her mother’s front room, they had 13 family members and two neighborhood boys who didn’t have a family.

Reminiscing, she wrote, “I now know Jesus put us together that year with five loaves and two fish. We didn’t know if we would have enough food for everyone to eat, but we had more than we needed. I had enough film left in my Polaroid camera for two pictures. Everyone who sees these photos and was there at that table remembers it as the best Thanksgiving meal ever. My scrapbook holds these two pictures, along with the story for future generations in our family.”

Reading her story brings to the forefront of my memories the Thanksgiving get-togethers our expanded families have had over the years, and I’m sure triggers memories of your families and of the God to whom praise is given.

Carl Mays is a National Speakers Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books, including A Strategy For Winning (foreword by Coach Lou Holtz). Email: carlmays@carlmays.com.