Nov 132013

Keeping our Beloved Thanksgiving Day Traditions

Thanksgiving Day traditions and celebrations are so important to us as Christians and as Americans. It is one of the only times we settle down and spend good quality time together. It is one of the only times many people stop and take a minute to count their blessings. That is still important, isn’t it?

Yet with families being broken apart and living separately, getting together becomes more difficult each year. So many young adults in my own family are stressed and strained. Their schedules are busy year around. During the holidays they struggle to make an appearance at the separate households of their  parents, dragging little ones behind them from house to house.

At times I think I would like to skip it all and cancel everything. Other times, I remember the importance of giving thanks, of celebrating bounty and of enjoying one another. Some of the frills and a lot of the expense can go away as far as I’m concerned, but these three things - that when combined equal the purest, sweetest form of prayer -  I’m keeping them alive.

Something is Missing

The tale of the first Thanksgiving in the United States has been a treasured story in American history for some. There are alternate perspectives, however. Some Native Americans, for example, see the holiday in a different light, believing the story masks the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions.  There are groups of Native Americans who protest on Thanksgiving Day, even proclaiming it a National Day of Mourning.

 I have Native American blood in my veins, so maybe this is personal for me. I am also becoming more and more aware of our lack of truth. But even in lack, I can see their point to some degree. I do not think it would be out of order for us seek out the truth and mourn with them for a time. There were atrocities committed by both sides and asking for forgiveness and healing would be in good form.

With such separation, are we not missing a piece of the very foundation of this nation? Of course we are. We are missing a group of friends who were with us on the first Thanksgiving day, but are with us no longer. And just like the brokenness in our homes, our nation is torn. It is sad, and it is something to  learn from and experience never again.

The First Thanksgiving

There are historical records of an earlier Thanksgiving than the familiar, humble beginning at Plymouth where Native Americans and Colonists celebrated together. 2 Yet for the sake of tradition, the most familiar story goes as thus:

 In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the Colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. Excerpt from

Or is it this, another story that should be told?


…Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore on Sept. 8, 1565. This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast.

There is a common denominator in these two accounts. The natives. Isn’t it at least slightly possible the Native Americans brought Thanksgiving Day into our lives to begin with? I think this is going to bother me for a while.

The Next Thanksgiving

In all honesty, I don’t believe it really matters where it began. I do believe it matters who attended. From my perspective, in both accounts of the first Thanksgiving, I see Americans present at the table. Period.

These Americans were light skinned, brown skinned, pilgrims or Anglos and Native Americans giving thanks, celebrating bounty and enjoying one another  -  that pure, sweet form of prayer.

I believe those present were honest in their intentions toward each other. The settlers had survived with the help of those first here and together they found reason to give thanks.

Looking at it from that perspective, we do want to continue this tradition don’t we? More importantly, we want to preserve our country and what it stands for, or rather what it stood for during those first celebrations now known as Thanksgiving, right?

Then our next Thanksgiving should be a time when we intentionally pray that pure, sweet prayer -  the real missing piece of the American pie.

Let’s do it. Let’s give thanks, celebrate and enjoy one another, regardless of our skin and regardless of our past. As did the future for settlers and Native Americans, our future may well depend on it. Only this time, let us take it beyond Thanksgiving Day and make it a lifestyle.


1, Thanksgiving 

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Was first Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Fla.

Denise Mistich

Denise is an author as well as spiritual mentor to many people. She writes from her heart to help little ones find their way in life.
 November 13, 2013  Posted by at 11:07 am Spiritual Health, Uncategorized  Add comments