With Thanksgiving just days away, news stories and columns are often published that delve into the history of the holiday. They also lament why Thanksgiving is being lost in the marketing frenzy between Halloween and Christmas, and that the heart and intent of the Christian holiday needs to be restored with dignity and reverence.
We say that’s a message that can’t be urged enough, because the heart and intent of Thanksgiving is thankfulness, and life without gratitude is a life not fully lived.
Revered American writer O. Henry once said, “There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving is the one day that is purely American.” He was right. History tells us that America’s first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Colonists and members of the Wampanoags tribe, reportedly shared a common table, feasted for days, and gave thanks for a season’s harvest.
But the colonists were the ones who had much to be thankful for. After arriving aboard the Mayflower from England in late 1620, the colonists suffered that winter from starvation, exposure and disease. The next spring, the Wampanoags taught the pilgrims how to survive in the New World. That first Thanksgiving nearly 400 years ago celebrated the colonists’ first successful crops.
History also tells us that the thankfulness of that first Thanksgiving didn’t last. As more colonists arrived, tensions began to rise with the Wampanoags, ultimately resulting in King Philip’s War. Yet, despite the war that resulted in heavy casualties for the colonists and Wampanoags, Thanksgiving wasn’t lost in the conflict or mists of time. Colonies and then states continued to celebrate Thanksgiving. Then in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last day of November be set aside as a national day of Thanksgiving.
Since then, Thanksgiving remains an important holiday for Christians who see the day as a time to give thanks. But for many Americans, the holiday is just a day on the calendar to eat turkey with family and friends, watch NFL football and begin the Christmas shopping hysteria.
With Thanksgiving only two days away, it is hoped that all of us never lose sight of the holiday’s original intent. In a country blessed with democracy and vast resources, thankfulness keeps us mindful that such abundance creates a standard of living that is the envy of the world.
It also helps us to be mindful of those who are less fortunate, and to remember to reach out in times of need. Speaking of reaching out, last week we announced the start of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin’s Annual Christmas Benefit Fund.
Held every Christmas since 1977, the benefit fund helps either an individual or family faced with a unique need or hardship. Individuals or families are nominated by readers and selected by the newspaper. Readers then donate cash or make other contributions. All proceeds are presented to the individual or family on or before Christmas.
Donations and nominations can be mailed to: Transcript Bulletin Christmas Benefit Fund, P.O. Box 390, Tooele, Utah 84074. They can also be dropped off at the Transcript Bulletin’s office at 58 N. Main Street south of Tooele City Hall.
Nominations may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.