Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 at the height of the Civil War. The holiday’s roots stem back to a relationship that was formed in 1620 between several Native American tribes and the English settlers. Thanksgiving, an unnamed celebration for the pilgrims, marked their first successful corn harvest, made possible only by the helping hands of the natives. George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, calling on all Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Between this and the Civil War, Sarah Josepha Hale, an American author, launched a campaign encouraging Thanksgiving to be declared a national Holiday. Thanksgiving was finally signed into proclamation as a national holiday by Lincoln, asking all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” The holiday was scheduled for the final Thursday in November and was celebrated on this day up until the Great Depression where Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday in order to influence retail sales. The plan known as “Franksgiving,” faced a lot of trouble and was denied its purpose. In 1941, Thanksgiving was signed back into its original position, the fourth Thursday of November.
From its origin to its present day celebration the meaning of Thanksgiving has had several different aspects, however, its message has always reflected the importance of gratitude. From natural disasters to world conflicts, we stand collectively witnessing the troubles of our time. Like the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock we face disease, hunger, and homelessness. Like those who suffered through the Civil War we see loved ones lost in today’s real world dramas, leaving new orphans and widowers to mourn. The life we live today just as threatening, if not more so, than the lives of our founders.
That being said, George Washington’s intention for Thanksgiving has seemed to fade. Everyone, everywhere is moving fast forward into a life they are constantly seeking, with no time to reflect on what’s really important. The materialistic society in which we’ve grown up in has taught us to keep asking for more, without pausing to see that we already have so much. Many have forgotten the importance of being appreciative for their blessings- hell, many people have forgotten that they are blessed! We are so concerned with eliminating the problems of tomorrow that we forget to celebrate what we have already achieved. Gratitude is an important acknowledgement that can make the everyday struggle a little easier. Without gratitude, there is no welcoming place for blessings to flow in.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,
confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace
for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Gratitude is a positive thought pattern one can introduce into everyday thinking, it opens the heart, allowing more good to enter ones life. The universe has so much to offer mankind, but it is only through our appreciation that we will be worthy of receiving its gifts. True gratitude comes from the heart, and anytime we are living more from the heart we are aligning ourselves more with our true nature. The more we repeat what we are thankful for, the more we repeat the words “Thank You” (silently or aloud), the more we will find that we have to be thankful for.
Appreciation can be expressed in everyday actions you take to help others and the world around you. Every breath of life is a gift. Remember to express gratitude on a regular basis and you will be able to experience the happiness that is our birthright. Practicing appreciation can happen on the simplest forms, beginning with the body and its ability to function.
Everyday life presents me with so many opportunities to express my gratitude, and even my troubles are blessings in disguise for they help me learn. I am thankful for my health and body, for without it this journey would not be possible. I am thankful for my education, and the gift of learning. I am thankful for Christina Sava, my soul mate and teacher. I am thankful for my family, for they put the roof over my head and love me when I am lost. I am thankful for musicians everywhere, especially the Biscuits and Infected Mushroom, for they help breed my freakiness, while also providing pure joy to the world. I am thankful for the air I breathe, the dog I love, the canvas I paint, and the people I meet. I am thankful for life and all it has to offer.
Whether you are spending this year’s Thanksgiving with your family, your friends, or simply doing dinner solo, remember to be appreciative. Thank Mother Nature at the dinner table; feel blessed to be alive, embrace your family and your friends. Gratitude can be the key that unlocks the door to a more fulfilling life, but only if you practice it.