Thanksgiving is unique among American holidays. Unlike most other major celebrations, it has no religious or political connection. It is simply a time for people to gather together, enjoy a great meal, and think about the things they are thankful for. Thanksgiving is a holiday no matter where you came from or what faith you subscribe to.
History of Thanksgiving
Historians disagree about the exact date of the first Thanksgiving. It is unlikely that the Puritans of the 17th century ever dined on turkey and potatoes with the local Indians, but the celebration is almost as old as the country itself. In 1795, President George Washington made an official proclamation setting aside February 19th as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” At the time, and for many years after, Thanksgiving was celebrated in a religious context as a time to give thanks for the blessings of God.
In 1863, with the Civil War raging, Abraham Lincoln made another proclamation about Thanksgiving. He set the date as the last Thursday in November, the day it is still observed on today. Before this, Thanksgiving was celebrated on a different day in every state, but President Lincoln made it into an official national holiday.
For some Thanksgiving remains a religious holiday, but for many it is simply a time to come together and enjoy a great meal. Turkey and stuffing are the traditional dishes, but some people prefer to break with tradition. Immigrant families often use Thanksgiving as an occasion to cook their favorite dishes from their native lands. Some families allow each member to pick a favorite food, from macaroni and cheese to pizza, and serve them all as a feast. There are Thanksgiving meals based around fish, soup or vegan dishes. The point is simply to cook foods that everyone enjoys as a reminder of life’s good fortune.
Watching or playing football are common Thanksgiving traditions, but most families have their own traditions that they come back to year after year. Some spend the morning of Thanksgiving going for a family hike or running a 5K. Many families have a favorite movie that they always watch after everyone is stuffed from the meal. In one unusual instance, a family saves all of the bones from the turkey and tries to reassemble the skeleton as a kind of jigsaw puzzle. After these traditions are repeated over and over, they become as essential to the holiday as the favorite foods.
Thanksgiving in the Military
Military families understand better than most that Thanksgiving is not about the food or the yearly rituals, but simply being together with each other. It is not easy for any family when one of its members is deployed, but it is always harder around the holidays. Thanksgiving, being such a fundamentally American holiday, would not be possible were it not for the sacrifice made by the brave men and women in the military. You have a lot to be thankful for, but this Thanksgiving, be sure to keep military families in your thoughts and be grateful for the sacrifice they make for us all.
Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Happy_Thanksgiving_%284138758719%29.jpg