It has been some time since I stepped away from a strictly financial planning topic and pulled back the curtain to talk about something more personal. The goal of this e-newsletter every month is, after all, not about me but about how I can help you find Clear Direction for your Retirement. However, with Thanksgiving on the way, I wanted to share a personal reflection on the topic of being thankful.
I was driving home one day last month and I passed a vehicle carrying a very large Christmas tree. I just remember thinking to myself, “Who in the world puts up a Christmas tree before Halloween?” It’s October, it’s not even below ninety degrees outside yet, you can still take a bath walking to the mailbox for crying out loud. Not that I have anything against a Christmas tree in October per se’, perhaps it’s their way of celebrating the coming respite from the heat and mosquitos, I can get on board with that…but I digress.
My real point is that more and more there is a bypass from Halloween, which seems to be pretty well covered, and straight to Christmas which is really well-covered. There is something missing here. I’m sure you already know where I’m heading with this and my goal is certainly not to come across as judgmental or preachy in any respect. Nobody likes that type of person. What I do want to do is to offer some perspective and encouragement regarding a day that it seems sometimes is all but forgotten.
On the fourth Thursday of every November, we celebrate a holiday. That’s right, it’s Thanksgiving Day. Not everyone forgets, many, many celebrate it. However, when you hear the name in our time it invokes thoughts of football, turkey and stuffing, black Friday, time with families or even a little hunting, for those who fancy that. Those are all great things and there is nothing wrong with celebrating and participating in them. But, is that really what this holiday represents?
The celebration of Thanksgiving started by the Pilgrims in 1621 as a harvest festival, designed to give thanks to God for nature’s bounty and well, their survival during the previous harsh 1620 winter. The Continental Congress, during the American Revolution, designated multiple days a year to give thanks.
In 1789, at Congressional request, George Washington called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.
In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale — author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”— launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday and for 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians, seeking their support.
Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, answered the holiday call in a proclamation encouraging all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” Thanksgiving was set for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939. In that year, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan became known as “Franks- giving” and was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the President reluctantly signed a bill once again making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.(1)
I hope you can see the common theme in the history above. Thanksgiving, historically speaking, is primarily about giving thanks and prayer. Everything else I’ve described has just settled in around it and to some extent crowded it out. Just as with Roosevelt’s retail play in his day, black Friday seems to steal the Thankful thunder in our day.
My encouragement to you this Thanksgiving is carpe diem….seize this day! Seize it for what it is. Have your food, fun and family but truly seize the underlying meaning of the day and what it represents.
For me, Thanksgiving is a special day in which to give thanks to God for all His blessings in my life. And, yes, I even have some food, family, football and even a little hunting now and again.
I am thankful for my family, for you our readers, our clients and so much more. Regardless of your religious leanings, thankfulness frees us to take our eyes off ourselves and put them where they belong, on the immense blessings all around us…a wealth that far more significant than mere money.
Be thankful in all things, it will change your life and the lives of those around you. Blessings to you and yours, my dear friends and Happy Thanksgiving.