In this episode of The Productive Woman, we’re talking about the history of Thanksgiving, what it means to give thanks and be truly grateful, and what I am most thankful for this year.
Giving thanks for what matters most
This episode will be published the day before Thanksgiving here in the United States. This year my husband and I will be hosting a family meal on Thursday. My mom and stepdad will be here, my youngest sister and her husband and son, and three of my five kids will be here, along with five of our grandchildren. I thought I’d share some thoughts about Thanksgiving–both the holiday and the practice.
The holiday–a brief history.
Those of us in the U.S. know what it’s about, but it’s been a long time since I looked at the story behind it.
According to an article on the History Channel website, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2021 occurs on Thursday, November 25. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.” (The article goes into the history of the original colonists and the indigenous peoples who helped them survive.)
I’ve learned that Thanksgiving is not solely an American holiday. According to Wikipedia, “Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. A similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.”
My childhood memories of Thanksgiving center around home and school. At school we learned about what was often described as the “first Thanksgiving feast” shared by the colonists in New England and the nearby indigenous people to celebrate a successful harvest. At home, Thanksgiving was always about food and family. My mom would cook a turkey and the trimmings. When we lived near extended family, we’d often gather together, with all the moms in the kitchen cooking up all the traditional foods, and then the family would gather around the table to share the meal.
There were a couple of times early in our marriage when Mike and I didn’t have enough money to buy a turkey. One year we made our Thanksgiving meal using a couple of turkey drumsticks and some sides. It wasn’t a Pinterest-worthy meal, but what mattered was that we were together.
There is a difference between gratitude and thanksgiving
According to one definition website: “As nouns, the difference between gratitude and thanksgiving is that gratitude is the state of being grateful while thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude.”
The practice of giving thanks
According to a recent article from Harvard Medical School, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
BUT as Gertrude Stein is quoted as saying, “Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.” There are additional benefits to actually giving voice to our gratitude–to “giving” thanks.
One article summarizes “five reasons why giving thanks is actually good for you.
- Counting blessings boosts your health.
- Slow down the aging clock.
- Put the brakes on stress.
- Being thankful helps you bond.
- Gratefulness = good for the heart and waistline?”
Quotes about gratitude and thanksgiving
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” ~ Brian Tracy
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” ~ Gerald Good
“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” ~ Ralph Marston
What I’m giving thanks for this year
- My extended family members are safe and healthy. This is nothing to take for granted in these difficult times, and we’ve had some things happen that could’ve gone a very different way.
- My colleagues at work.
- The support and help I’ve received (continue to) in putting this podcast out.
- The guests who’ve taken the time to join me on the podcast, sharing their insights and ideas with all of us.
- Every listener who’s taken time to write to me. I’m not always able to respond as quickly as I’d like to, but I read every email, every FB post and private message, and am so grateful for every one of them.
- The women who’ve joined the TPW masterminds supported each other, and inspired me by their commitment to taking action to make a life that matters.
- The women who joined me here in October for the first-ever TPW planning retreat. (Thank you Amy, Ina, Marla, and Celeste!)
- You for listening.
What do you think?
What are you giving thanks for? Share your suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me
Resources and Links:
- Ways Giving Thanks Can Make You Healthier – ActiveBeat
- Thanksgiving 2021 – Tradition, Origins & Meaning – HISTORY
- Thanksgiving – Wikipedia
- 5 Reasons Why Giving Thanks is Good for You
- Giving Thanks: 31 Inspiring Quotes About Thankfulness | Inc.com
- Giving thanks can make you happier – Harvard Health
- The Power Of Giving Thanks: Why Gratitude Is Not Just For Good Times, But For All Times
- Gratitude vs Thanksgiving – What’s the difference? | WikiDiff
- Five Ways to Practice Gratitude by Norann Voll
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