Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences
Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner and along with the food, family, and football, it is a time to give thanks for the things we are grateful for. While this activity does not need to be exclusive to Thanksgiving, we often make a special effort to share our thanks and spread our gratitude on this particular day each year.
A little Thanksgiving history
Thanksgiving began as a harvest festival and has been celebrated in the United States on and off as a national event since 1789. President Abraham Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1863, during the trying times of the American Civil War, and ever since 1942, it has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
While the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock gathered to celebrate their first successful growing season in 1621, sharing their harvest with the local Native Americans, the Thanksgiving celebrations we have grown accustomed to today do not differ that much in spirit from that First Thanksgiving.
We still gather together to share food and fellowship with others and take a moment to reflect upon all the things were are thankful for. Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the positive things we have in our lives.
Ways to give thanks
While simply giving thanks is more than enough to honor the spirit of the holiday, here are five creative ways to give back and say thanks this Thanksgiving:
Pass the gratitude basket. This is a fun twist on an old tradition. Each person around the table writes one thing they are grateful for on a piece of paper and puts it in a basket. After everyone has added their piece of paper, the basket is passed around. Each person pulls a piece of paper from the basket, reads it out loud, and everyone tries to guess who wrote it.
Invite someone new over for dinner. Sharing a meal with friends and family is a gift best not taken for granted. Think about what a wonderful experience it can be and then think about how there are people out there who may not have the same opportunity. If there is someone out there who may be alone on Thanksgiving, take a chance and invite them to dinner. It may just be a rewarding experience for everyone.
Give thanks while giving back. A great way to show gratitude is by paying it forward. Set aside some time to volunteer at a senior center, soup kitchen, or animal shelter. Ask friends and family to bring a few items with them to dinner that can be later donated to a charitable organization, including clothing, books, and school supplies.
Feed a family in need. Have friends and family pitch in to provide Thanksgiving meals for families who are less fortunate. Donate food items to churches and other organizations who will put them together and distribute them. Participate in an Adopt-A-Family effort. Buy a holiday meal through a supermarket that subsequently donates it to a needy family.
Plant a tree. Trees provide us with oxygen, shade, clean air, and beauty. A good way to show gratitude is by planting a tree. Not only will the tree be a long-term way to demonstrate thanks to the environment we live in, it will provide food and shelter to many of the wildlife we enjoy.
Thanksgiving is a time for sharing great food and giving thanks with family and friends. Whether through service or sharing, taking the time to show gratitude for all the good things we enjoy is a terrific way to usher in the holiday season.
For more information, please call Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, at 850.926.3931.
Giving thanks can make you happier (Harvard Medical School)
‘Tis the season of giving thanks: Why gratitude is important in leadership (Michigan State University Extension)
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