Most Americans know all about how we've come to celebrate Thanksgiving; our kids are in school plays about it, there are themed movies (cartoon and real-life), musicals and more.
So this information should come as no surprise:
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves probably didn't use the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. We know all this because the pilgrims were writers. There are two primary sources for the events of autumn 1621 in Plymouth: Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation and Gov. William Bradford writing in Of Plymouth Plantation. Only slightly more impressive than the fact that these documents survived and are preserved from 395 years ago, is our present-day celebration of it.
Thanksgiving didn't become a federal holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of giving thanks to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, making the festivity 153 (official) years old this year. But we still acknowledge that first feast and incorporate many of the elements of the original Thanksgiving.
Now, like many traditions, the actual feast food has been transformed over time, but we keep the turkey as a centrally recognized theme and symbol of the holiday and that comes directly from the 1621 feast.
Hand-in-hand with the food comes the concept of "giving thanks". Many families go around the table, each one saying what they are thankful for. I know this is also a concept we are all familiar with: being conscious of the benefits we've received, and expressing our thanks. But how often do we do this? In our day to day activities, how mindful are we of the things others do for us? Do we pause for a beat and sincerely say "Thank you" to those people? And guess what? Doing this benefits yourself as well as others! Grateful people “feel more alert, alive, interested, enthusiastic. They also feel more connected to others,” says Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California/Davis, who has written two books on the science of gratitude and often studies the effects of those gratitude diaries. According to the Harvard Health publication, "Healthbeat", "In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships" Studies have also shown that focusing on what you're grateful for, even on a weekly basis (as compared to those who focused on daily irritations and what displeased them) leads to feelings of optimism, less trips to the Doctor and an inclination to exercise more.
So perhaps, this year (in the midst of a very unusual year for our country) put some purposeful effort into this and reflect upon what you're thankful for. You will enrich the lives of others and maybe even inspire someone else to do the same.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Cynthia Schmier, Broker/Owner
CRS, CDPE, CNE, CIAS, MDI, 5-STAR, SRS