Remembering Thanksgiving – The Forgotten Holiday

thanksgiving-1986Sandwiched somewhere between Halloween and Christmas is a Thursday holiday that is rapidly losing prominence in the minds of millions of Americans – Thanksgiving. If you search hard, you might find a slim 50% off section of Thanksgiving cards, autumn decorations, and a turkey platter sandwiched amid multiple aisles of Christmas decorations.

For many, Thanksgiving is little more than a day to gather extended family, indulgently partake of an over-abundance of food, watch football games on television, and get a list together prior to a marathon day of Christmas shopping.

Somehow our perception of Thanksgiving Day has gone askew. We’ve forgotten the reason our forefathers celebrated that first Thanksgiving – gratitude for survival.

Historically we think of Thanksgiving as a time of feasting. Visions of Native Americans, Indian corn, Puritan dress, and trestle tables come to mind. But in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims were clinging to life, having lost over half their original population through disease or starvation in less than a year’s time. The Pilgrims hosted the first feast not to try out their latest recipes, but to celebrate survival and give thanks to God for His provision in difficult circumstances. Gratitude was their underlying motivation.

In today’s world, many of us rarely give thanks for anything and are more likely to have an attitude of criticism rather than gratitude. We tend to focus on negatives instead of observing blessings and voicing thanks. Although thankfulness should be effortless, a constant overflow of our hearts, for many of us, our personal gratitude level could use some cultivation.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving is a good time to redirect thoughts and attitudes toward gratitude by doing the following:

  • Recognize blessings – The definition of gratitude is “thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received.” Most of us are incredibly blessed yet tend to complain rather than express gratitude. If you’ve fallen into that pattern, take a step toward gratitude by making a list of ways you and your family have been blessed this year. Remember the blessings of physical and mental health, relationships, and faith, in addition to financial resources. Sometimes we fail to realize and acknowledge blessings until we actually spend time enumerating them. Many times our greatest blessings are intangible.
  • Embrace freedom – We often take freedom for granted, yet in many countries around the world, individuals live in dreary oppression under dictatorial governments, or fear for their lives in places where anarchy rules. We, however, have the liberty to pursue our own religious beliefs without fear of imprisonment, vote for government officials, gather publicly and privately, and make personal choices about jobs, finances, housing, and a multitude of other things. We live in a country that champions freedom and democracy and offers safe haven for the oppressed.
  • Cultivate joy – It’s easy to become so bogged down with schedules and activities that we lose sight of joy in the process. Joy comes in taking our eyes off ourselves and then seeing and fulfilling the needs of others. This Thanksgiving, volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or make a monetary donation to an organization the feeds or houses the needy, homeless, or abused. Or decide to part with items around your home that you aren’t using but could be useful and treasured by others.
  • Spread encouragement – Think of someone you love and appreciate, but rarely see. Make plans to call, send a card, or visit that person. Find out if there is a special need and provide financially, or with an act of service. Invite someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one since last Thanksgiving to spend the day at your home.

These are just a few ideas to help you get started. Use your creativity to come up with other ways and enjoy making Thanksgiving a holiday to remember.

                                                                                                           

 

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