Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. — Charles Dickens
The world today is full of conflicts, some of them violent and deadly. Fortunately, the United States, while it has taken sides in many cases, is not yet directly engaged in any of the fighting. That is all the more reason to celebrate Thanksgiving 2023 for the blessings that we have and enjoy.
Many of us will gather once again with family, friends and neighbors for traditional Thanksgiving meals with the warmth of shared memories and, perhaps, new beginnings.
Many of us will extend a helping hand in some way to those who are less fortunate. That spirit of giving is a great part of the American character.
Above all, let us give thanks that we live in the world's greatest nation, that our standard of living is the highest history has known, and that we still strive, whatever our shortcomings, to ensure liberty and justice for all.
There are so many of our fellow Americans to whom we owe thanks:
- The 2.2 million men and women who serve on active duty or in the reserves of our Armed Forces.
- The tens of thousands of police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and other first responders who are on duty 24/7 to protect us.
- The skilled hospital workers who treat us when we are ill or injured.
- The citizen volunteers who give so generously of their time and energy to help those in need.
- The dedicated school teachers who educate our young people for the future. And that is only a partial list of the hardworking people who make America the safe and thriving nation that it is. Let us be grateful to them all.
Some fun facts about this special day:
- In 1621, Governor William Bradford invited the Pilgrims' Native American allies to join them in giving thanks for a successful harvest. The 90 Wampanoags who showed up brought so much food that the celebration was extended to three days.
- We don't know exactly when the first Thanksgiving occurred, but many historians believe it was mid-October when the harvest was presumably all in and the weather was better suited for outdoor festivities. It was President Lincoln who set the date in late November to coincide with the time of the Pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock in 1620.
- There is also no record of what food was served. It's considered unlikely that turkey was included, but lobsters, ducks, geese and swans were almost certainly on the tables. The Wampanoags reportedly brought five deer, so venison would have been a highlight.
- When President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, it was at the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale, the writer of Mary Had a Little Lamb, who believed it might help in healing the trauma of the Civil War.
- Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day Parade was almost a century ago, in 1924. It featured monkeys, bears, camels and elephants borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, but no balloons. They weren't introduced until 1927. Far and away the most popular character down through the years has been Snoopy with 39 appearances since his introduction in 1968.
We have so much to be grateful for, so please enjoy this Thanksgiving.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is the Founder and CEO of The Dilenschneider Group, an international communications firm that provides strategic advice and counsel to Fortune 500 companies and leading families and individuals in fields ranging from mergers and acquisitions, to crisis communications, to marketing, government affairs and foreign media.