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Thanksgiving, a Cherished American Holiday

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Thanksgiving, a cherished American holiday known for its emphasis on gratitude, family gatherings, and bountiful feasts, was officially established as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. This declaration came amidst the Civil War, as a unifying effort to encourage Americans to pause and give thanks despite the tumultuous times. Rooted in a historical tradition dating back to the early 17th century with the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans, Thanksgiving has since evolved into a day that not only commemorates a shared meal and harvest celebration but also symbolizes a deeper sense of appreciation for life’s blessings and the importance of community and togetherness.

There are many tips for making sure you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  Here are some tips to help you create just that:

Set a Festive Table: If you’re hosting, set your table the night before. This not only saves time on Thanksgiving Day but also allows you to focus on the finer details of your table setting. A beautifully set table can make the meal feel more special. Use fall-themed decorations, candles, or a seasonal centerpiece to enhance the ambiance.

Start with Gratitude: Begin your meal by sharing what you’re thankful for. This could be a group activity where each person expresses their gratitude, aligning with the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Rabbi Daniel Cohen, senior Rabbi at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, CT., says, “Thanksgiving is the reminder we all need now more than ever. Walk humbly, express gratitude, spread joy and see the positive in our families, communities, country and all whom we meet!”

Incorporate Tradition and Creativity: While traditional dishes are a staple of Thanksgiving, don’t be afraid to try new recipes or add a creative twist to classic favorites. This can become a fun talking point for guests.

Create a Relaxing Atmosphere: Background music, comfortable seating, and a relaxed schedule can make guests feel at home. Avoid rushing through dinner; let the day unfold naturally.

Serve Dinner: Stick to your planned dinner time as closely as possible. Before eating, you might want to say a few words of thanks or have a moment of gratitude.

Relax and Have Fun: After the meal, engage in planned activities or simply relax and enjoy the company of your guests.

Include Fun Activities: Plan some post-meal activities like board games, a walk outside, or watching a favorite movie or football game together. This is especially great for keeping kids engaged.

Capture the Moments: Take photos or even a group picture to remember the day.

Charge Your Devices: If you plan to Zoom or video call distant family members or use your phone for other reasons, make sure all your devices are fully charged.

Remember Those Less Fortunate: Thanksgiving is a time for giving. Consider donating to a food bank, volunteering, or inviting someone who may not have a place to go for the holiday.

Take Time for Yourself: Amidst the hustle of hosting or attending gatherings, take a moment for yourself. A little self-care can go a long way in keeping you relaxed and present.

Reflect on the Day: Take a moment to appreciate the success of the day and the joy of having spent time with loved ones.

Embrace Imperfections: Not everything may go as planned, and that’s okay. The beauty of Thanksgiving lies in being together and creating memories, not in perfection.

 There is much to be Thankful for. Author and speaker, Kelly McDonald says it like this: “My Thanksgiving wish for everyone is the kindness and embrace from people that we can feel every day.  In ways big and small, even in terrible times, with situations and events we can’t control, our humanity still comes shining through.  I choose to believe in goodness.  I choose to believe in hope.  I choose to believe in the best of people.   May everyone have a gratitude-filled day tomorrow – and every day.

Remember, the essence of Thanksgiving is about gratitude and togetherness. Keeping these at the forefront of your celebration can make for a truly wonderful holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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