Full disclosure: this is almost a complete re-posting of my Thanksgiving column from 2012.
When I read through previous Thanksgiving installments, I realized much of what I wrote that year would be true of this year, including the date on which Thanksgiving falls. And let’s face it, nobody remembers what I wrote six years ago anyway, so why not make a few tweaks and recycle?
Indeed, Thanksgiving this year will look a lot like Thanksgiving six years ago, only a bit bigger. We are thrilled that, in addition to family, some friends will be joining us. At last count, we will have 15 adults and two one-year-olds. (The two grandsons are obviously an addition since 2012).
I love Thanksgiving for a number of reasons. I like it because it’s in the fall, which is my favorite season. I love the food and the fact we get a one-day free pass on calories (I think that’s a law now). And I love enjoying it all with family, and this year with friends.
With the increased numbers, we’ll be adding an eight-foot folding table in the living room to supplement the dining room table. It’s ancient, and not aesthetically pleasing, but will do just fine with a couple of tablecloths thrown over it.
On Thanksgiving morning, some of us will participate in the 5K “Turkey Trot” in Cool Springs that benefits GraceWorks. This is really unnecessary since we have the aforementioned caloric free pass for the day, but has proven to be a fun and worthwhile way to start the holiday for a number of years now. It will be no pretty sight for me, I assure you, but I plan to cross the finish line with some degree of my dignity intact.
We generally have a very traditional mid-afternoon Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and dressing, an assortment of vegetables and salads and, of course, wonderful desserts.
And after pronouncements of “I’ll never eat again,” early evening walks, a few naps and maybe a couple of games, it’s not uncommon to hear rustlings in the kitchen around 9 or 9:30 as those previous proclamations of indefinite fasting give way to the realization that a turkey sandwich might hit the spot, chased by just one more sliver of pecan pie. (Calories begin to count again Friday morning, so it’s important to take advantage of the free pass while it lasts).
I did a little research on the origins of this splendid holiday. Many of us grew up believing the Pilgrims at Plymouth got the whole thing started. That’s not totally untrue but it’s not completely accurate either.
Although Pilgrims and Puritans who came from England brought traditions of a formal giving of thanks for a bountiful harvest during this time of year, and there’s scant evidence of some type of feast at Plymouth in the 1620s commemorating same, the first national day of thanksgiving was proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789.
Later observations varied from state to state until Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 making Thanksgiving an official national holiday, to be observed on the final Thursday in November.
In 1941 Congress enacted legislation, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, proclaiming Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday in November. This year the holiday falls on the earliest possible date, November 22, since the first day of November fell on a Thursday.
As a Thanksgiving purist, I detest the blending of Thanksgiving and Christmas. You will not see a Christmas tree or decoration anywhere near my home until well into December.
On the other hand, as a realist, I understand retailers are delighted at the earliness of this year’s Thanksgiving. As we all know, the Christmas shopping season officially starts the day after (although for many it now begins on Thanksgiving Day, which I find very sad), allowing for more than a full month between Black Friday and Christmas Day.
The real purpose of this holiday is found, quite simply, in its name. And although it’s not a true religious holiday, people of faith will be acknowledging and thanking the Almighty for abundant blessings.
I’m right there with them, having experienced undeserved blessings far too numerous to name in this space, but far too significant to take for granted or give only passing acknowledgement.
Along with the giving of thanks, I hope we all remember those who are struggling. There are many fine ministries and agencies in our midst that take care of the hurting and homeless this time of year (and all year long, for that matter). Our donations of time, food and money are sorely needed and greatly appreciated.
That just might be the best part of Thanksgiving – helping someone else to be thankful too.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.