Thanksgiving Day can mean a lot of things for different people—a time for family, a time to enjoy some really good food, and even the start of the holiday season. It can also be stressful, especially if it means a lot of traveling to visit different family members, or frantically cleaning and cooking to prepare to host Thanksgiving in your own home.
In recent years, my extended family started celebrating Thanksgiving Day the weekend before Thanksgiving at a restaurant we all enjoy. This allows us to spend time together, enjoying each other’s company all in one place, without the stress of driving all over the state to see everyone and no one has to worry about cooking and cleaning. That way we can focus on spending quality time with our family without being too exhausted or stressed to enjoy it. Thanksgiving Day itself, my husband and I have a relaxed holiday, sometimes with friends, sometimes just us—casual, informal, and without pressure or expectations. Numerous studies have shown that we are happier when we take time to acknowledge things we are thankful for. For us, we express our thankfulness by mindfully enjoying the things and people we are thankful for during the holiday season.
The concept of a thanksgiving day—literally a day set aside for the giving of thanks—is an old tradition in many cultures, especially days set aside for giving thanks for a good harvest. These celebrations were both days for giving thanks that they had harvested enough food to survive the winter but also in celebration for finishing the hard work of the harvest.
Thanksgiving as we know it in the United States is attributed to the Pilgrims, who in 1621 hosted what is thought to be the first European harvest thanksgiving festival in North America. Those Pilgrims who had survived the first hard winter in New England were joined by nearly twice as many local Native Americans, whose help with crops, hunting, and fishing in this new environment had been essential for the viability of the community.
Fun Fact: The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated by United States was set for December 18, 1777 by General George Washington in honor of the American victory at Saratoga, New York. For the following years, first Congress and then presidents named days as Thanksgiving in recognition of the creation of the new country. November 25 was also recognized as an unofficial national holiday, celebrating the departure of the British from the new United States. These were not permanent federal holidays, however; it wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, made Thanksgiving a yearly national holiday.
What are some of your Thanksgiving day traditions? What do you have that you are thankful for?
Whatever your traditions are, I hope you all have a wonderful week, a good holiday filled with friends, family, and good cheer.
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