Thanksgiving: The Importance of Traditions

by Kayla Morgan

The 4th Thursday in November brings about a holiday that is rich in tradition. A day where the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life pauses, and families gather together expressing gratitude for their many blessings. Thanksgiving is a holiday that carries quite a timeline of historical events, and it wouldn’t be in my fashion to not incorporate a mini history lesson into this post. We’ve all created our own traditions for celebrating this long-standing holiday, but wouldn’t it be nice to truly understand some of the American history behind why we still celebrate Thanksgiving today?

Everyone is familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving. In the year 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest with their friends the Wampanoags. Coming over from England to start a new life in the New World, proved to be more than what the Pilgrims could handle. Without the help and guidance of a Native named Squanto, Governor William Bradford and his people likely wouldn’t have survived their first year. As they gathered that October, they understood thankfulness in a way many of us cannot relate to. They had survived what seemed to be an imminent doom. This tradition carried on for years to come, altering in outcomes of harvests, and varying in dates.

Eventually, President George Washington presented a proclamation in 1789, calling November 26th “a national day of thanks”. From there different states adopted Thanksgiving as an annual holiday at different times. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be held the fourth Thursday in November. In 1941, the United States Congress made Thanksgiving an official national holiday.

More recently, a tradition was started in 1989, when President George H. W. Bush officially pardoned the turkey presented to him by the National Turkey Federation. This tradition has continued since, and now these feathered friends are sent to live out their remaining days on the Disneyland Ranch after serving as Grand Marshals for their annual parade.

Today, my family’s Thanksgiving Day begins with the television playing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the background, as the kitchen is full of activity preparing the anticipated meal ahead. Our Thanksgiving traditions include a feast of turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and countless other starch-filled favorites. Our family gathers around tables to enjoy the dishes we only get a few times a year, while taking turns sharing what we are thankful for. Some get the honor of sitting at the adult table, while many of us still find ourselves sitting amongst the kids. The wishbone awaits the lucky two chosen to pull for good fortune in the coming year. The men make their way to empty couches to sleep off their overindulgence, while “watching” the big games. The kids race off giggling and playing, while the women spread out the sales ads, and begin plotting their Black Friday game plan. While this may not sound exactly like what goes on at your family Thanksgiving, there are sure to be special memories that make you smile, and cause you to look forward to this gathering of family and friends each year.

As you prepare for the next week, attending school feasts, potlatch ceremonies, or skits with little Pilgrims and Native Americans proudly sharing the story of Thanksgiving, take the time to stop and reflect on this special time celebrated all over our country. A time of sharing in customs passed from generation to generation. A time where no matter what the past year has brought your way, you can simply be thankful to be here and present, hopefully surrounded by those you love. May your traditions carry on, and may you never lose site of the journey that brought about this holiday we will continue to celebrate for many years to come.

In the words of Charlie Brown’s wise friend Marcie,

“Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”

– A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charles M. Schultz

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