There it was in black and white – a famous cartoon in the local newspaper expressing the current commentary on holiday merchandising. It depicted Halloween night complete with little spooks carrying their sacks and demanding "trick or treat." But across the sky was a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer with Santa cracking his whip above them.
Another newspaper cartoon made its satirical comment on the season: between Frankenstein and Santa was a scrawny turkey pushing frantically with his wings to preserve his place on the calendar.
Thanksgiving is in trouble, and it seems the only people trying to save it from extinction are the turkey growers and the supermarkets. But it was not always this way. You may remember Grandma and Grandpa's table laden with meats and produce from the far. Gathered around such a feast, everyone bowed his head and gave thanks to God.
A Thanksgiving history
Contrary to what some think, Americans did not originate the idea of Thanksgiving. Harvest festivals have been around in various countries for centuries. Most school children know about the Plymouth colonists and the first Thanksgiving. Few know that in 1621, the first governor, William Bradford, decreed there to be a three-day harvest feast with the Wampanoag people who helped the colonists survive the winter of 1620. The pilgrims did not hold a true Thanksgiving until 1623 following a drought, prayers for rain, and a subsequent rain shower. The path from Governor Bradford and the colonists to Thanksgiving Day by the colonists after the harvest as well as proclamations for days of Thanksgiving by the Continental Congress, George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving to be the next to the last Thursday in November in order to help the depressed economy by giving a longer Christmas buying season. In 1941, Congress established that Thanksgiving would occur annually on the fourth Thursday of November.
The door to Christmas shopping
Today Thanksgiving in more of a market for the beginning of Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving has become a mere speed bump on the way to Christmas. Now only your child and Hallmark salt-and-pepper shakers remind you of the origin of Thanksgiving. Even the slogan, "Have a Happy Turkey Day" reflects a flippant focus on prosperity. Thankfully, there are more and more parents, organizations, and communities giving thanks and reaching out to the poor and homeless to provide Thanksgiving dinners. Sadly, most people take what they have for granted and, at best, tip their hats to the Almighty Provider.
How about you? Will your Thanksgiving celebration this year be more than fall colors, football, and a family dinner? After all, without thanks, it's only Turkey Day.
Encouraging an attitude of gratitude
Here are some ideas to properly celebrate Thanksgiving and our great blessings from our great God:
- Take time to pray and focus the holiday on giving thanks. "Let us enter His presence with Thanksgiving" (Psalm 95:2)
- Individualize colorful place cards: "Thank you, God, for ((name))." Or, take these cards to the person at whose home you are eating.
- Create a child-friendly, edible centerpiece using a bowl overflowing with a variety of grapes. Or take flowers to the hostess of the dinner you are attending.
- Ask a grandchild to read Psalm 100 at the table or in the car while traveling.
- Hold hands and thank God for your family, friends, and the food God has given.
- Create a family Thanksgiving wreath. Using colorful paper, have your guests trace one of their hands, cut out the handprint, sign it, and write something for which they are thankful. Glue the handprints to an orange poster board wreath.