Thanksgiving – a Thursday in November when people exchange gifts with their near and dear and thank them for their love and affection. While families across America celebrate the holiday, many are not aware of its origins. It all began with the Mayflower pilgrims who settled at the Plymouth Plantation in 1621. These pilgrims joined the Native Americans in celebrating a good harvest and thanking the Lord for the bountiful crop, which was the source of their survival. The festival became a Federal holiday when Abraham Lincoln declared it would be an occasion of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” in 1863. The holiday was to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November, becoming intertwined with the broader Christmas season.
Since then, people of the United States have observed Thanksgiving. Jeff Nilsson, writing in the Saturday Evening Post points out most Americans agree on the importance of the holiday, but there is less unanimity on what Thanksgiving must involve. Some lay emphasis on mortification and repentance, while others stress the need to express gratitude for everything, including difficulties, which help make us better. While there are diverse schools of thought on how the holiday should be celebrated, there is little disagreement on the essence of Thanksgiving – thanking the Almighty and sharing our happiness with others.
I believe the true spirit of Thanksgiving is centered on a relationship – the relationship between the Supreme One and us, His children. In fact, the Mayflower pilgrims who created the Mayflower Compact, the first framework of a free society in America, thanked Him earnestly for His blessings. I think the best way to celebrate the Thanksgiving is by sharing what we have and helping those who are less fortunate. Sharing with others and helping those in need through kind and generous gestures gives immense satisfaction. As Mother Theresa rightly said, helping hands are better than praying lips.
Service to humanity is service to divinity. God helps those who help others. And, there can be no better occasion than Thanksgiving to extend a helping hand to those who need it. What do you think?