The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Rachel McLaughlin, Editor

For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually includes feasting, four-day weekends, football games, floats, family reunions, or maybe a hint of Christmas festivities. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of half their original colonists. With the help of Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” party.

Thanksgiving Day, as celebrated in North America, is a time to gather with family and friends to give thanks for the many blessings given to us. But to many people, its meaning is lost.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday of November. On this holiday, a Thanksgiving meal is prepared with all the trimmings; families gather together and talk, while others watch a game or a parade filled with pilgrims, Indians and other colonial figures. Some families may even have their own yearly Thanksgiving traditions.

Sadly, the latter is what Thanksgiving has become to most. They have forgotten why the day was established. Its meaning has slowly deteriorated, and is now almost completely lost under a cloud of media, sales pitches, marketing tactics and commercialism.

While many are familiar with the traditional representation of the original Thanksgiving, it is helpful to examine the purpose for which it was first celebrated. By doing this, the day’s meaning will be made special again.

Here at Totino-Grace we are taught to have “an attitude of gratitude”, which is a statement that becomes repetitive during this time of year. Students here are surrounded by so many blessings that go unnoticed. We are pushed to constantly remind ourselves of the many blessings in our lives and how thankful we should be for the lives we have been given.