Americans will observe one of our most cherished traditions Thursday as we gather on another Thanksgiving Day in our homes and places of worship to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy in our lives and as a nation.
We celebrate the same spirit of gratitude that our earliest settlers did when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts shared their bountiful harvest with the Native Americans in 1621 after the bitter winter of their first year had threatened the colonys existence in the New World.
Regional observances continued until President Washington raised it to a national holiday with his 1789 proclamation declaring Nov. 26 a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.
But the national holiday was not firmly established as a tradition until President Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War declared the last Thursday in November 1863 as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed legislation officially making the fourth Thursday in November the national holiday.
Over the past four centuries, the dates and customs have changed, but not the sentiments. Americans today, as generations before them, give thanks for our heritage and freedoms guaranteed by our laws and our Armed Forces, close to home and in distant lands.
On a day born out of hardship and celebrated through difficult times, generous Americans will reach out to the less fortunate, particularly this year those dislocated by Superstorm Sandy.
We give thanks for our health, the blessings of our daily lives, the plentiful meal before us and our loved ones grandparents and parents, children and siblings seated at the table with us to enjoy the feast, share fond family memories and maybe watch a parade or a football game