The True Meaning of Thanksgiving
There is much dispute about what really represents the first Thanksgiving meal. Some opponents believe that it was the harvest bounty shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621, others believe that its origins date back to harvest festivals. But, in all actuality, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who signed the bill into law with congress to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and determining the modern day date of the fourth Thursday in November.
Whatever the origins, Thanksgiving is a sacred time of sharing, compassion, and peace. Thanksgiving is the start of the winter holidays. By its very definition it is a time of thankfulness and gratitude. So, what, in fact is the definition of thankfulness? According to the Merriam/Webster dictionary the meaning of thankfulness is :
1. Conscious of benefit received
2. Expressive of thanks
3. Well pleased
Thankfulness leads into a feeling of gratefulness or gratitude, defined as:
1. Appreciative of benefits received
2. Affording pleasure or contentment.
Thus, the act of thanksgiving or giving thanks is to be conscious of the benefits received, expressing that thankfulness, and being well pleased with the results. Taking it a step further, it is also the act of appreciating those benefits and being pleased and contented with what we have. To whom then do we give thanks? Some would give thanks to a higher power, but isn’t it about more than just that? Isn’t it about the appreciation of the earth and its bounty. Isn’t it about appreciating our culture and our roots? Isn’t it really about the thankfulness and gratitude that you are alive and here to celebrate this time with those that you love? And, isn’t it about showing compassion and sharing of whatever bounty you may possess?
In an ideal world, there would not be anyone who was hungry. No child would go to bed without food in his or her belly, and no parent would mourn for a child who was lost in a needless war. There would be a great respect and reverence for the earth as our mother, and a deep and abiding understanding that underneath all of our titles and beliefs- we are- in our humanness-- all the same.
We may not be able to create such a world, at least not yet. But, what we can do is to actively share our bounty--not just on Thanksgiving-- but on every day of the year. We can smile at those who serve us in banks, stores and businesses. We can say “thank-you” with feeling and meaning. We can contribute change or can goods or a present for a child in need. We can give to the local shelters and food banks, and most of all we can truly appreciate what we have.
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