Thanksgiving is over, leftovers are gone and hectic family travel is behind us.
On Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, I had an amazingly impromptu conversation with a good friend. I called him to check up on a production that we were working on together, and it sparked a wonderfully insightful discussion on the concept of the Thanksgiving holiday.
I am really thankful for friends like him.
After the discussion, two questions lingered in my head.
Question #1 – What is the real history of Thanksgiving?
History is recorded from different perspectives.
We engage with it based on our own unique perceptions.
Do we ever really understand the complete story?
Depending on who you ask, the history of Thanksgiving can be very different from the sweet story that we were told in elementary school. Growing up, the story was that Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to celebrate friendship and collaboration.
Squanto reached out and taught the Pilgrims to live off the land.
Enter cornucopias overflowing with pumpkins, root vegetables and fall flowers all centered on a large table with turkey, dressing, vegetables and desserts.
The table is framed by hearty smiles and thoughtful gazes.
After a few words of gratitude, they enjoyed the fruits of their hard work.
I decided to research the history of Thanksgiving and came up with a few nuggets.
How did the Native Americans and the Pilgrims manage the language barrier?
Squanto was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. He was able to communicate with the settlers because he was initially kidnapped and sold into slavery. He spent years in Spain and England before he was eventually was returned to his home by a British Explorer named John Weymouth. Squanto and Weymouth became friends, which lead to his willingness to help the settlers.
What did the author of Mary Had a Little Lamb have to do with Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving was made an official national holiday by Abraham Lincoln on the persistent urging of Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was a writer and penned the children’s poem, Mary’s Lamb, which became know as Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Was Thanksgiving actually a celebration of change in system of government?
In Of Plimouth Plantation, Governor William Bradford, talks about the original structure of the colony. The land and the harvests were owned in common by the government. Men stopped working the fields because they felt the outputs they were receiving didn’t equal the value of their work. Bradford decided to make a change. The government still owned the land, but the men working the land could keep the full fruits of their labor. The new system was working well until a drought threatened their harvest. Bradford ordered a “Day of Humiliation and Prayer” and the rains returned. The harvest was successful and Bradford proclaimed November 29, 1623 a “Day of Thanksgiving”.
Was it a miraculous answer to prayer, or the realization of a better community structure?
Either way, we have a Thanksgiving holiday every November.
Question #2 – Why does turkey, dressing and football have to do with truly being grateful?
Why should we only be thankful one day out of the year?
Don’t get me wrong, I love turkey. I mean, I really love turkey.
Pulling the ones you love in a little closer is even better!
Thanksgiving is a daily practice. Start each day physically expressing gratitude.
This critical part of my daily routine keeps me in the present moment.
1,440 minutes every day. Take 2 minutes (that’s .001% of your day) …
Think about these words:
Today, I am thankful for …
Pick up a pencil and write down three of them. Every day.
“Every day, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Dalai Lama
Back to the conversation with my good friend and my two lingering questions …
There is more to Thanksgiving than meets the eye.
Gratitude performs best as a daily practice and not an obligatory phenomenon.