Thanksgiving is here and we really do have much to be thankful for – living in the greatest country in the world, with an amazing level of comfort and freedom compared with many other places.
When we think of Thanksgiving, images of colonists, Native Americans, peace and goodwill and Plymouth Rock usually come to mind. But there is more to the story, and more to the tradition.
Our American Thanksgiving essentially continues the age-old celebration of the harvest feast, which stretches back as far as 3,000 years. The Jews celebrated the Sukkoth. The Chinese celebrated the Chung Ch’ui. The Greeks and Romans had harvest feasts of their own. The common thread? They were all celebrations of good fortune, gratitude and relief.
Early colonial life was marked by hardship. In 1621, the Massachusetts colonists had endured persistent hunger, and the local Native American community had been decimated by introduced diseases. But the fall of 1621 brought peace, and farming techniques learned from the Native Americans had improved the lives of the colonists. A day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by Governor William Bradford, to be shared by colonists and Native Americans. So Thanksgiving was a day of reflection and appreciation.
Thanksgiving didn’t become an “official” holiday in America until about 250 years later. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day holiday in 1863, when the country was going through one of its roughest times.
Right now, while the nation is enduring a different tough times, there is still much to be grateful about. Our quality of life is remarkably high. We come through tough times and solve problems – and we should celebrate with an attitude of gratitude.