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The Meaning of Thanksgiving ...

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The fourth Thursday of November is fast approaching, which means turkeys, pumpkin pies, stuffing, and any number of family specialties will be prepared across the country in the coming days—for Thanksgiving is upon us.


Most of us grew up learning the story of the 1621 Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts with the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered around the table. In recent history other early Thanksgiving celebrations in North America have come to light … so while the Pilgrims and Indians probably weren’t the first to celebrate Thanksgiving in our country—the way they celebrated has influenced our current celebration in many ways. But more than commemorating a single event centuries ago, Thanksgiving is a national day for all Americans to gather with friends and family and remind ourselves of what we have to be thankful for. 


Our stories this week reflect that idea. In Rivka’s First Thanksgiving we learn the story of a Jewish family recently emigrated from Poland and how Rivka introduces them all to Thanksgiving. In a similar vein, The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell, tells the story of an elderly couple who after the demise of their own Thanksgiving meal stumble upon the first Thanksgiving of a newly immigrated Russian family who “accidentally” left the door to their restaurant ajar. Both books show the universality of Thanksgiving celebrations. Finally, Thanksgiving Fun: Things to Make and Do includes a section on how other Thanksgiving type harvest festivals are celebrated around the world, in addition to recipes and craft ideas throughout the book. 


I hope you will take this opportunity to share your heritage with your family. Tell your kids about their roots, and how those influence your Thanksgiving celebrations. In my family, my mom is a descendant of William Bradford, the governor who declared the 1621 feast day, which might explain why Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday. While on the other side of my family, my father is a first generation immigrant from Mexico, so we always make turkey tacos with our leftovers and have homemade salsa in the days following Thanksgiving. Passing on your own family’s story not only gives your children an appreciation of history, but also of diversity, after all, we’re all immigrants here—some of us have just been here longer than others! 


Enjoy this time to be with family and remember what all we have to be thankful for, especially in these lean times. And if you have any to spare, please also remember those who are in need. What better way to show our thanks than by sharing our blessings? 


Happy Thanksgiving!



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