Healthy, Hearty and Full of Gratitude—Thanksgiving

pryaer.jpgThanksgiving is NOT Turkey Day. Okay, we eat lots of turkey on Thanksgiving, but it’s NOT Turkey Day. More than the bird on the menu, Thanksgiving is first and foremost about our gratitude to God for what He has provided.

Yes, the day is a reminder of the cooperation and friendship between the Indians and Pilgrims, but it’s not about that either. It began with the Pilgrims inviting the Indians to their celebration of thanks to God for His provisions. They had plenty of trials, but they were still grateful.

We spend a lot of time preparing the food. So much so, we are overwhelmed with the bounty on our tables. There is excitement over family and friends coming together. And, advertisers tell us it’s all about the turkey. If we forget to be thankful, then the focus is on the food.

At our home, we begin our annual feast with my husband, Dick, giving a corporate prayer of gratitude, thanking God for His many blessings. We always end the meal with a family tradition where each person gives a personal story of why they are blessed and thankful. We used to do this before the meal, but our food would get cold, so we moved it to the end of the meal.

Sometimes there is laughter. Kids are always sure to surprise you when they share why they’re grateful. Teens can be another matter altogether. One year, a cranky teen, sitting at our table laden with scrumptious food and surrounded by people who love her (I’ll not say who it was, but I’m sure my daughter Joy remembers this), said she didn’t have one thing to be thankful for! So much for the teen years. If you have a cranky teen at your Thanksgiving table, you can be thankful that cranky teens grow up and become loving, grateful adults.

Sometimes, our thankfulness brings tears. Last Thanksgiving was difficult for our family, because my mother passed away three weeks earlier. We were sad and thankful at the same time. I remember another Thanksgiving where we gathered at Jackie’s (another daughter’s) home. She asked that we all say why we were thankful for someone at the table. We pretty much bawled through the entire thing.

Most Thanksgivings, we have guests other than our immediate family. A few years ago, Karen, a business acquaintance of ours, had just moved to Colorado and shared the festive meal with us. My granddaughter Ally, who was seven at the time, sat next to Karen at the table, and when it came time for Ally, to say what she was thankful for, she said she was thankful for her new friend, Karen. We bawled again. Okay, we’re a bunch of crybabies.

Another Thanksgiving, our dear friend, Guy, survived a year-long battle with cancer. He has spent many Thanksgivings with us and was very familiar with our tradition. When it came time for him to say why he was thankful, he whipped out a pre-written note and read us a beautiful, thankful, message of God’s blessings. Yes, there wasn’t a dry eye at the table.

This Thanksgiving, make it a thankful day, not Turkey Day. Thank God, especially in your most difficult times… God is providing.

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3 thoughts on “Healthy, Hearty and Full of Gratitude—Thanksgiving

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi Nonna Joanne,
    I wanted to comment on Thanksgiving Not being Turkey day. I agree that thanksgiving is about family and not consumerism but I was surprised to read your opening sentences about the pilgrims and God. Being the anthropologist that I am, I think of thanksgiving as a harvest festival. Harvest festivals are found at different times of year and in many cultures around the world. It is my understanding that “Thanksgiving” as we practice it in the United States, was originally a harvest festival practiced by the Algonkian tribes. These Algonkian tribes invited the new comers or “pilgrims” to join them in their harvest festival. Thus European descendants integrated this Algonkian festival into their traditions, including many of the foods such as turkey, corn, pumpkins and other squashes (many such crops are domesticates of the “Americas”). Algonkian tribes also had their own spiritual beleif system, one that did not even have the word “god” in it. Although thanksgiving has evolved into a holiday that fits Anglo cultural and religious worldviews, I still think it is important to remember where the holiday originates from and the cooperation that occured between the Native Americans and Europeans. I am thankful and respectful of the diversity in the world, afterall (according to many anthropologists) 90% of any culture is borroowed (diffused) from other cultures.
    Thanks for letting me comment. Happy Holidays,

  2. Nonna Joann says:

    There are so many versions of the first Thanksgiving, that it can be difficult to separate truth from fiction. Yes, many cultures have a type of thanksgiving or harvest festival. But, the American Thanksgiving is directly tied to the Pilgrims’ Christian faith (not Indian’s beliefs). If you recall it was their faith which brought them to America.

    There are two primary original sources of information. Edward Winslow and William Bradford attended the first Thanksgiving and left us a written record. Their words describe the intent and meaning of their Thanksgiving celebration. Notice that the feast was instigated by the Pilgrims, not the Indians.

    William Bradford wrote of their arrival to America.
    “Being thus arrived in good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.”

    Edward Winslow writes of the intent of the first Thanksgiving:
    “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the GOODNESS OF GOD, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

    William Bradford writes of the bounty of the first summer:
    “They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.”

    A Big Nonna Hug, Joann Bruso

  3. Shannon says:

    I enjoyed these comments. William Bradford was my great-grandmother’s great-great grandfather. (her name was Velma Bradford!) So, it makes it especially interesting to me to read his words being quoted.
    Thank you,

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