25 Nov A Time To Start Your Own Thanksgiving Tradition
The tradition of Thanksgiving has become synonymous with the early Christmas sales and the Black Friday deals during the 21 st century, and yet returning to the meaning of Thanksgiving gives a focus of appreciation and mindfulness of our achievements and the good things in life before the winter.
The first Thanksgiving meal was a three day celebration of the successful corn harvest after the first year of life by the pilgrims who emigrated to the New World. The Mayflower had anchored on November 21st 1620 at Cape Cod, where many of the travellers remained on board during their first winter suffering from scurvy, contagious diseases and exposure. Only half of them lived to see the New England spring when they moved ashore to set up home.
Their Thanksgiving, successful corn harvest, and indeed survival, was directly as a result of the inspirational teaching and kindness shown by Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who taught the pilgrims how to cultivate the corn, catch eels in the rivers, avoid the local poisonous plants, and extract sap from the maple trees. His early style of mentoring and sharing of knowledge enabled the survival of the early colonists.
Squanto’s actions showed genuine kindness and lack of judgement as he had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold to slavery when he was younger. After escaping, he had returned to his homeland on an exploratory expedition, and became the life skills teacher and interpreter for the colonists, enabling a harmonious alliance with the Wampanoag tribe which lasted for fifty years.
The Thanksgiving meal and three day celebration of the harvest began a tradition of gratitude in the New World which has continued annually to this day in the United States. The first meal was shared between the 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The people who attended that first harvest celebration in the New World had no idea that it would start a tradition continued 400 years later. The Thanksgiving Holiday itself was recognised by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as the 4th Thursday in November following a 17 year campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale.
Thanksgiving has become a time to return to family and loved ones, to appreciate the “home”, to share memories and achievements, and to show appreciation of each other and their values. It is an occasion to come together and show their gratitude for all the good things in their lives.
What a wonderful concept for a tradition! You don’t need to be a US citizen to celebrate gratitude and give thanks for all the great things in your life. You can make this your tradition to give appreciation and thanks with your loved ones on a specific day each year, or any time you choose.
Gratitude appears to have become a trendy buzz word in the past few years along with mindfulness as a means to improve your life. However, recognising and appreciating the good things in life as genuine gratitude has been proven, through academic research, to have very positive benefits on our lives. The team from Berkeley which leads the Expanding Gratitude have found that people who practise gratitude report the following benefits:
- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More joy, optimism, and happiness
- Acting with more generosity and compassion
- Feeling less lonely and isolated.
They also have several excellent suggestions to Cultivate Gratitude so that it becomes a natural part of your thought processes and behaviour. A Thanksgiving meal with loves ones would be a great time to introduce actions to start practising gratitude:
- Share three things for which you have been personally grateful in the past year.
- Write a letter of thanks to one of the guests who has helped you or taught you something important in the last year.
- Give each guest a Gratitude Journal so that they can start recording the positive things that happen each day.
- Encourage each guest to bring a homemade contribution to the meal so that you can appreciate each other’s skills.
- Share personal memories together to recognise how you have succeeded and learned from difficult challenges so that you appreciate the good times even more.
- Take a Nature Walk together before or after your meal, and appreciate the natural world around you using all your senses.
The act of giving thanks and gratitude has been proved to have very positive psychological, social and physical benefits for those who practise it regularly. As this is the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA, now is a great opportunity start your own tradition and share a Thanksgiving meal with others. Inspire your guests to have a positive attitude through practising gratitude so that they have the opportunity to adopt more positive behaviours.
Afterwards, you can lead by practising gratitude and becoming the best version of yourself you can be through your positive actions, and share your gratitude with others in your life.
Give thanks for what you have and appreciate all the positives in your life!