It’s been 150 years ago and one month since President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving be observed each year.
Initially, it was set for the last Thursday of November. But in the tumultuous economic times of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the day to the fourth Thursday of November.
It was apparently a bow to pressure from the business community, which, then, as now, wanted to get consumers out shopping as soon as possible for Christmas. At least that’s according to information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
There really is no one way to celebrate Thanksgiving.
It’s not like Christmas, where families either exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, as my family did when I was a child (Santa had a very short window to get those gifts in place). Or, it’s done on Christmas morning.
With Thanksgiving, there are so many ways to celebrate.
For me as a young man, it often meant going to a short church service, where the serious nature of the holiday was recounted, and the familiar Thanksgiving hymns were sung.
That type of observance seems to have all but disappeared. Maybe that’s just as well. It gives families and friends a chance to get together, unencumbered by outside demands, even if they’re not mandatory.
It also provides more time for tired parents and grandparents, in particular, to get some generally much needed shuteye. It seems as though the demands placed on them are greater than ever, these days.
There’s the traditional Macy’s Parade, where the giant inflatable shapes of cartoon characters and more seem to float between the skyscrapers in Manhattan.
For the cooks in the house, it can mean getting up before dawn, at least this time of year, to get that turkey started. Not to mention putting all the finishing touches on everything else.
Then we can’t forget the NFL games, pitting some of the most popular and promising teams against one another.
Somewhere in there, family and friends get together to eat what for most is perhaps their biggest meal, and splurge, stomach-wise, of the year.
It’s a time to renew old acquaintances, remember past times, revel in accomplishments or current achievements. And hopefully it’s not too uncomfortable as some people who never see each other except on holidays sit down at the table together.
It’s also a time for many kind-hearted souls to give, literally, of their time and talents.
I’m thinking of those who go to the homeless shelters, such as the Road Home in Salt Lake City or the St. Anne’s Center in Ogden.
I also think of the handful of restaurants who give freely of their bounty to families in need. In Davis County, Thai Jasmine in Syracuse is again offering a Thanksgiving meal. It’ll be free for senior citizens and military. These Thai immigrants are so grateful for all this country has given them that they do this as a gesture of thanks - and support for the military and in honor of our senior citizens.
In a similar way, Angie’s Restaurant in Logan is celebrating 25 years of offering a free meal to anyone wishing one. Those who can pay are welcome to give a donation. The owner came from his native Afghanistan to study at Utah State University. Like his fellow Syracuse restaurant owners, he and his staff provide the meal as a way to thank their customers, and in thanks for the freedoms and bounties America provides.
No matter how you celebrate, I urge you to take a moment to stop and give thanks for all we have.