Dear Readers – I had intended to save this column for next week, the day before the holiday, but I have a feeling a lot of you are going to need advice next week. Family issues never seem more urgent than they do at Thanksgiving. So I’m saving that space for you. Write me with your Turkey Day worries and woes! And meanwhile, there’s this ...
I don’t think we should celebrate Thanksgiving, because it glorifies the stealing of native lands from native peoples. I think if people were honest about history, they’d see the hypocrisy of observing this holiday. You seem to know a lot about holidays and their origins. What do you think?
American Thanksgiving was established by in 1789 when a proclamation about an annual day of thanks, made by George Washington, was followed up by one from the Episcopal Church, naming the first Thursday of November as the day of thanks. But it was rarely observed by everyday people. Later, author Sarah Joseph Hale campaigned to make it a national observation until she found a president who agreed with her. President Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving in 1863. However it wasn’t until 1941 that it became an official national holiday.
Thankgiving, then, was not derived from ancient Celtic or Roman customs as most of our other modern holidays were. But this time of year has always been the time of harvest festivals and celebrations around the world, in every culture and every part of history, and feasting has always been a part of that. I don’t see a problem with linking this holiday in our minds to a time when two very different types of people from different cultures (pilgrims and Native Americans) joined together to celebrate the harvest. I think it would have been nice if that sort of cooperation had continued, but it didn’t. We’ve all moved on and evolved since then. I’m more interested in Thanksgiving today.
Most people today think “thanksgiving” is synonomous with turkey, family, football, overeating, pumpkin pie, travel, the kick-off of the “holidays” and the beginning of the weight gain we’ll all spend the new year trying to undo.
But thanksgiving doesn’t really mean any of those things. It means giving thanks. Being grateful. Taking one day to focus on all the good things you have in your life. Do you have any idea how healthy that is? Do you know how many people spend the majority of their time worrying about what they lack, what they need, what they don’t have yet, what they want, why others have what they don’t, how they’ll ever get what they need, and so on? Those thoughts become their prominent ones. And focusing on lack can only bring you more lack. Not to mention that a state of mind like that contributes to depression, stress, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, sleep disorders, and so on. Focusing on what you lack can kill you. But it’ll make you wish you were dead long before it does, because you’ll make yourself miserable.
BUT when you turn your attention to the things you DO have, the good things, the ones you couldn’t do without, the ones you enjoy, the ones you love, the ones you are so glad to have in your life—when you do that, it’s impossible to focus on lack. When you start noticing what you have, you also start to relax. You smile more. Your mood improves. Your stress reduces. You’re more pleasant to be around. Prettier too. No frown lines, no stress wrinkles. Only laugh lines, which are beautiful. And the most incredible thing that happens is that by focusing on abundance, you create more abundance. It cannot be otherwise.
I think one day a year isn’t nearly enough time to spend giving thanks. I focus on gratitude every single day. The first thing I do every morning is write down a bunch of the things I’m feeling grateful for. Not all of them. There are way too many. But I list the ones most prominent in my thoughts that morning and then I light my Gratitude Candle and let it burn all day. I started with a larger pillar candle as a base, and then each day, set a fresh new votive on top of it, and light the votive. I used various colors and scents, and each votive’s wax melts down over the base candle, making it grow bigger and more beautiful all the time. (You can see a photo of my ever growing Gratitude Candle at my website this week, www.maggieshayne.com.)
It would be a lovely tradition to start for any family. And Thanksgiving, it seems to me, would be the perfect time to start it. Or, if not the whole candle thing, at least the gratitude.
Don’t worry too much about history, in this case. Thanksgiving, or “giving thanks” is a really good idea. Too good to ignore, and too good to observe only once a year. Heck, every day should be Thanksgiving.
Just, not with the feasting. Otherwise, we’ll be giving thanks for the abundance around our waistlines and in our butts, and we don’t want that now, do we?