Friends, family and a delicious dinner — what’s not to love about Thanksgiving? Though Thanksgiving is one of our most beloved and enduring traditions, we can make it more meaningful by learning the lessons of the very first Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving was a harvest festival, celebrating a bountiful corn crop after limited success with other grains. Native people had shown the English settlers how to use fish as fertilizer, so the feast was an opportunity to share the bounty with those who’d helped them. The lesson here is clear: take the time to enjoy your victories and celebrate success with the people who helped you achieve them.
Love Your Body
You think anyone at the first Thanksgiving was worried about calories and carbs? The early Americans had suffered through enough seasons of scarce food to understand the value of a good meal. Though the tradition of turkey and pumpkin pie didn’t develop for a few years, the Pilgrims and Native Americans did enjoy a feast of fowl, pumpkins and squash at the first Thanksgiving. So even if you’re watching your weight, take a break from salads and smoothies and allow yourself to enjoy a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal — in moderation, of course.
The rough early years of settlement had taken its toll on the English, and by the first Thanksgiving only about 50 had survived. But the first Thanksgiving festival also included about 90 Wampanoag native men. Despite their differences, both the English and Natives had longstanding traditions in place to celebrate a bountiful harvest, so when they joined together they shared not only a meal, but also their very different cultures, including feasting, praying and playing games. Learn from the first Thanksgiving and make a pact to develop new traditions in your family: invite your neighbors to dinner, introduce a new way of giving thanks or volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter.
Take Your Time
The first Thanksgiving was not just a meal — it was a true harvest festival that lasted several days. According to written accounts, the English hosted the Natives for three days of feasting and entertaining. Take a cue from early Americans and make your Thanksgiving last a little longer. With so much time preparing, it’s important to slow down and enjoy the meal. Don’t rush from dinner to dessert to clean up. Let conversations linger. Make time for a full-tummy nap on the couch. Get on the floor and play with the kids. Put your feet up and watch the game. The dishes will still be there tomorrow.
Of course the most enduring lesson of the first Thanksgiving is to take the time to give thanks. Both the English and Natives had suffered substantial losses, but rather than dwelling on their hardships, they spent a weekend celebrating the gift of the harvest.
It’s hard to stay focused on the meaning of Thanksgiving when there’s so much fun and food to enjoy. But this Thanksgiving, designate a special time to take stock of all the bounty and joy in your life. Go around the table and have each person name three things they are thankful for. Write a journal about all the goodness you have in your life. And most importantly, recommit to being thankful for the blessings in your life every single day.
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