Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving actually began as an annual holiday during the Lincoln presidency. The 1621 Pilgrim feast inspired passionate patriot and magazine editor Sarah Hale to lobby all over the country to make it a national holiday some 200 years later. She went so far as to publish recipes for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie in her magazine even though these foods had little connection to the first celebration. She succeeded in her mission. Lincoln approved it as a federal holiday in 1863.

Did you know the feast of 1621 shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans was a part of ongoing celebrations of gratitude? The Pilgrims made a regular habit of celebrating “thanksgivings” consisting of days of prayer and expressing thanks to God for their blessings. 

Have you know of anyone who prays for days before Thanksgiving? Sadly, these days it feels like our Thanksgiving prayers look like this:

“God, please make sure I don’t blow up the turkey.”
“God, I hope I can get through the shopping line without hurting anyone.”
“God, can we get through the holiday without fighting?”

Shall we start a movement today to revive the spirit of the 1621 feast and focus on our blessings? Use these three ways to practice gratitude and celebrate this wonderful holiday with purpose and meaning:

Wall of gratitude. Place a stack of sticky notes in a basket with colorful markers. Ask household members to answer these questions on the sticky note. Post them on a wall or window in a common area. Feel free to add to list. Take down the sticky notes on Thanksgiving. Read your notes out loud.

Why do I celebrate Thanksgiving?
What does Thanksgiving mean to me?
What am I most grateful for?
What is my favorite Thanksgiving memory?

Bowl of thanks. Cut up paper into pieces about half the size of an index card. Grab a pen and write down one answer on each paper. Fold in half and put in a bowl. Feel free to add questions. Put the bowl on the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Read your notes out loud.

What is my greatest blessing? 
Why am I a gift to the world? 
What does gratitude look like for me? 
What is my favorite Thanksgiving ritual?

Write a Thanksgiving prayer or poem. Who doesn’t love a handmade prayer? Keep it simple and include three to five sentences that focus on these ideas or whatever words come into your heart. Read your prayer before mealtime. Make copies and share with friends and family.

a blessing that happened this year
a person for whom you are grateful
a wish for what you hope this Thanksgiving will be for you and the world
a hope for a beautiful Thanksgiving 2017

May this Thanksgiving be the start of many years of living through the eyes of gratitude. 

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