What Is the True Meaning of Thanksgiving? It All Depends On Whom You Ask!

November 20, 2016 at 9:42 pm Leave a comment

Modern Family Thanksgiving

Rockwell Thanksgiving Parody 03 560x426

Under One Roof  

While my true meaning of Thanksgiving is having our children, Richie, Kevin and Katie together, there is nothing that measures up to having them all under one roof!  With everyone grown and living far away, we absolutely treasure having a full house.   Our Thanksgiving morning starts off   cozied around the tv watching the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, eating breakfast and sipping coffee. Followed up by playing touch football out front and later baking  with Katie for the evening’s festivities.  Thanksgiving means a lot to me and is definitely my favorite holiday. While it includes the serious act of indulging, a perk that I am seriously thankful for, it is about Family, Gratitude, Giving Back and Paying it Forward that resonates most with me. In the twenty-first century, with my Modern Family, Sarah Hales ~ The true “Mother of Thanksgiving,” would be a welcomed guest at our table. Her vision of Thanksgiving has lived on, not only in America, but also across the world on different dates and honoring different cultures. It’s a significant reminder that the art and act of giving “thanks” is about treasuring the bonds of family, creating our own traditions or adopting the traditions that have been handed down to us over time. Today, this annual holiday conjures up images of loud and overflowing families, smells of sweet potatoes, pumpkin and apple pies, warm, buttered rolls, corn bread soufflé (my specialty,) green bean casseroles, and the iconic Turkey or Ham, or Tofurkey for vegetarians. Also hidden in the ingredients is Tryptophan, the one to blame for the head bob, food coma’s, and long naps stretched out on the sofa wearing stretchy-wasteband bottoms. Ahhh and  let’s not forget the long-awaited remote control struggle during multiple football games. Eat and Repeat.  But nothing means more than those who congregate around the table. Time stops to relish our children, our parents, our siblings and cousins, our in-laws, (some out-laws,) all branches of our family tree and friends amongst us. While we celebrate it’s national status annually, I believe that Thanksgiving is a daily occurrence in our wonderful, crazy and hectic lives. And while change is a constant, the most important actions we take to instill inclusiveness, harmony and gratitude, need never change. It is the one way in which we can honor our family and ourselves. Supporting local charities such as The Harvest Drive ~ Children Helping Children, is a vision started over a quarter of a century ago, and a movement that our family has participated in almost as long. It assists more than 2000 food insecure families in Broward County during the Thanksgiving Season. “Educating children and creating a consciousness about the needs of their community; promoting altruism and giving them the opportunity to help others are the cornerstone of the Harvest Drive.” There’s plenty of time left to check out their website to see where you are needed. The Harvest Drive also has several year-round food pantries. Visit http://www.harvestdriveflorida.com  

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention”

Thank Goodness for Mothers! So you may wonder who started this Thanksgiving tradition and demanded it become a National Holiday? A Mother of course. Symbolic of the Native Americans who graciously taught the Pilgrims survival techniques upon their arrival at Plymouth Rock, Sarah Josepha Hale was also a “rock” in her own right.  Known as The Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah persevered relentlessly, pestered and nagged different Presidents with her tireless letter writing, pleading to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday. As a scholar, promoter of women in education, a mother of five, an accomplished writer and  journalist, Sarah knew how necessary this holiday was to promote the emotional well-being of families. She knew what was at stake and what mattered most. Credited with helping to establish Vassar College for Women in 1861, Sarah’s urging to commemorate Thanksgiving finally gained traction when she appealed to President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln  issued a Presidential Proclamation, demanding that Thanksgiving become a national holiday for the first time ever on Nov. 26, 1863. His decision to do so is widely perceived as an act of National Unification — an idea suggested to him by Sarah Hale. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill on November 26, 1941 declaring Thanksgiving as a National Holiday to be celebrated the fourth Thursday in November. Hail to Hale! Sarah had to rock the boat and make waves before smooth sailing was in her forecast.

Rocking the Boat ~ The First Step in Discovering a Solid Foundation…

Thanksgiving has a rich history, and while it is embedded in the history of America, its concept is replicated by many other countries around the world, at different times of the year and commonly known as a special time of harvest and appreciation. For the Pilgrims, it began by ‘rocking the boat” as they set sail upon The Mayflower on September 6, 1620 from Plymouth, England bound for the “New World.” The sixty-six day voyage was anything but smooth sailing and documented as a lethal journey. So you can imagine the Pilgrims gratitude upon reaching America and being greeted warmly by the Native Americans.  But their happiness was short-lived since they were ill-equipped to face the winter on this estranged place where they were ravaged thoroughly. 

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life.” Lao Tzu

First Thanksgiving

Fortunately, the Pilgrims were saved by a group of local Native Americans who befriended them and taught them essential survival skills, introducing the settlers to the technique used to cultivate corns, grow native vegetables, and store them for the difficult days ahead. By the next winter they had raised enough crops to keep them alive. The winter came and passed by without much harm. The settlers knew they had beaten the odds and it was time to celebrate and honor the Native Americans through a shared feast of gratitude.

Thanksgiving Belongs to All Humanity

Image result for world peace

“The world we have been given is a masterpiece. But in order for us to survive, we must be the masters of Peace.” Jayne Bonilla

This National Holiday, significantly reflective of those fateful days when the Pilgrims first planted their feet on Plymouth Rock and with the guidance of Native Americans, became rooted in America. Who knew that celebrating the fruits of their labor back in 1620 would provide the impetus for a favorite holiday shared across  the world today With all of our rich history and traditions, we do not corner the market on this magnanimous holiday that exemplifies gratitude. The concept behind the Thanksgiving ceremony celebration, held with a massive zeal in every nook and corner of the United States, is similar to the August Moon Festival in China, Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam, Sukkot in Jewish Communities, Kwanzaa in Africa, Pongal in India, Chuseok in Korea and Cerelia in Rome. The list is endless and unique to each Country that inhabits our planet. The only difference in each festival is the date, rituals and customs. The reason behind each celebration across the world,  clearly shares a common denominator, as does humankind; To show gratitude for our blessings and to instill peace across the land!

Thankful For Sarah

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Let us not forget to be thankful for Sarah Hale. In 1837, Sarah wrote her thoughts on Thanksgiving: “it is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart — the social and domestic ties.”  Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving is a children’s book by Laurie Halse Anderson, and is synonymous with honoring and valuing family time and recognizing that nothing has a higher calling or means more than the bonds of family! Sarah Hale’s dream not only came to fruition, but lives on 153 years later. 

On this Thanksgiving Holiday, may your tummies be full and your hearts be fulfilled. 

Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent, a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others. 


Please keep an eye out for my December Blog about “Giving the Gift of Time” this Holiday Season ~ Experiential Pursuits that Promote Greater Happiness!



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I Could Have Danced All Night

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"It is better to improve than it is to prove"
- Jayne Bonilla

Since the road to success is always under construction, this blog is intended to serve as a visceral compass empowering readers/writers to find their own direction along the way.

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