Is it just me, or has our society abandoned Thanksgiving?
Society has been sliding away from anything rooted righteousness. So seeing efforts each year to extend the season for buying stuff we don’t really need shouldn’t surprise anyone. But this year I sensed a significant movement when stores began putting out their Christmas displays two weeks before Halloween.
Seriously? Christmas is my favorite holiday, but come on. Is there no longer a place for gratitude in our society?
Thanksgiving is the appropriate start of the holiday season. Every good in our lives begins with gratitude. Without gratitude, we simply won’t see the bounties of blessings that surround us even in the worst of circumstances.
Only with gratitude can we open ourselves to the blessings we desire but lack. Only with gratitude can we open our hearts to receive more of the joy found in Christmas and New Year’s Day. So Thanksgiving should start the holiday season. However, it wasn’t always that way.
Learn from history
Wikipedia has an excellent article on the history of Thanksgiving in America. The first Thanksgivings were not the appointed national holiday of today. Rather they appear to have sprouted from the religious culture of the day.
In that context Continental Army commander George Washington declared a national day of thanksgiving in 1777 for the American victory at Saratoga, a major turning point for the war. The image below shows what the fields of Saratoga looked like when I visited the site.
Again in 1789 Washington, now the first President under the Constitution, proclaimed a day for the country to unite in service and giving thanks to God. Consider that the fledgling new nation under the Constitution had just passed its first year. According to Washington’s proclamation, times seemed to be fairly good. And in that season of good, gratitude was embraced. We should also embrace gratitude when our own seasons seem fairly good.
Gratitude fits every season
Although an important precursor, Washington’s proclamation didn’t establish the national holiday of today. That came much later.
Fast forward the reels of history to the darkest days of the American Civil War. This war was the first truly industrialized war, making use of new weapons available by industrial technology. By late 1863, tens of thousands had died in horrific scenes of violence and destruction never before experienced.
Notwithstanding, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the final Thursday in November 1863 as “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Thanksgiving, previously celebrated only sporadically, has been celebrated annually ever since.
I find Lincoln’s proclamation remarkable. In the midst of what must have seemed incredibly difficult to those then living, the nation’s leader calls upon the people to give thanks. Though the idea did not originate with Lincoln, I find the example set forth in his proclamation inspiring. I quote it here in its entirety.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
Times have changed
How far we have strayed from those days. Now instead of coming together as people of different faiths to thank God each in his or her own way, we as a society quite literally trod over and kill one another to get the latest stuff, all motivated by self-gratification. Times have changed from what they once were.
But if the times have changed before, they surely can change again. It all depends on what we choose here and now. And it all starts with gratitude, a choice we all can make.
Singles can be especially prone to bemoan their own lack. This isn’t a singles tendency but rather a human tendency. We all naturally look at what’s wrong rather than what’s right.
Lincoln’s proclamation in particular inspires me because amidst all of the dearth and horror of war he found reasons to give thanks. And those reasons became apparent once they were listed. Likewise, we proclaim gratitude by listing our own reasons to give thanks.
Note that Lincoln’s proclamation did not ignore the negative. Lincoln acknowledged the negative, but he then highlighted the positive. Likewise, we should neither ignore the negative nor fail to highlight the positive in our own lives.
We can have more of the joy that the holiday season offers in Christmas and New Year’s Day when we first embrace the gratitude extolled in Thanksgiving. No matter our individual circumstances, we can see better God’s great blessings when we first feel gratitude in our hearts. And that gratitude becomes easier to feel when we list our reasons to be grateful.
So during the Thanksgiving holiday this year, take a moment to list your reasons to be grateful. The holiday season can be more rewarding for you than it has ever been before when you begin with a spirit of gratitude.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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