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During this season’s fall festivities, planning for great times with family and friends is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In schools, classrooms are filled with Thanksgiving artwork much of which the children have created. I can remember my elementary teacher showing us how to be creative by outlining our fingers and hand to draw a picture of a turkey and then color it. Needless to say, I never won a prize for the best drawn turkey but it was a memorable exercise that piqued my interest. So, when did the celebration of Thanksgiving Day begin?

Of course, historians say that the first Thanksgiving recognition was neither a feast nor a holiday, but rather it was a simple gathering of two different cultures, amid starvation for the New World immigrants.  A ship, known as the Mayflower, launched its voyage from England with 102 passengers and a crew headed by Master Christopher Jones. Many of the passengers were of the separatist Leiden congregation seeking to create a foundation of Christianity according to their own theology in the New World. They traveled from England to America risking their lives as they sailed across a sea of horrific winds that pushed them off course, finally arriving at Plymouth Rock in December 1620.  About half of the English settlers died in the first winter.

With the help of Native Americans, the remaining settlers, known as Pilgrims today, survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and Native Americans to unite and to give thanks together.  From this event, the birth of Thanksgiving Day began and has been observed through many generations.

Thanksgiving celebrations today usually include feasting over a four-day weekend. There is often entertainment, such as football games, a Thanksgiving Day parade with floats and families reuniting with prayer. The event is also a forerunner for Christmas shopping.

These festivities are topped off with the Thanksgiving meal, which generally consists of a traditional turkey with tasty classics like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and dressing with side dishes such as sweet-potato casserole, cranberry sauce and some type of classic dessert like carrot-cake (the Chaplain’s favorite dessert) and/or pumpkin pie.

As we approach this time of year, let’s remember that giving thanks should not just be about a tradition, but rather our thankfulness should be a daily expression of our gratitude for the gift of life, happiness, peace, and family. The offering of our prayers of thanks should express gratitude in many ways, remembering that while our tables are flourishing over with food, there will be many in the world who will be without food or shelter. So, Never Give Up! Never Give Up! Never Give Up!

By Chaplain Ghosten