Another year is rapidly approaching its end and it is again time to take note of the onset of the Holiday Season. Unfortunately, another somewhat melancholy Thanksgiving post seems all too appropriate as we gather with friends and family to celebrate this year's holiday. Much has happened since last Thanksgiving, but regrettably, very little seems to have improved from last year to this. Nonetheless, in keeping with the original spirit of this special day, I remain hopeful that 2012 will see a happier and more prosperous holiday than this one for us all.

General George Washington and Old Nelson,
The Prayer at Valley Forge, by Arnold Friberg
Today is Thanksgiving. And, as every school child in the United States knows (or should know), this annual feast day traces its beginnings all the way back to 1621, when a pitifully small group of Pilgrims from the Plymouth Plantation (only thirteen, in all), along with about ninety neighboring Native Americans, celebrated the colony's first successful harvest. Interestingly, this first "Thanksgiving" feast lasted a full three days. A number of the other early American colonies, it should be noted, also observed, on a regular basis, their own versions of the Plymouth settlement's first harvest feast. As a widely-recognized national holiday that was no longer limited to a few states in New England, not surprisingly, Thanksgiving is most closely associated with two of the American republic's greatest presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. On 3 October 1789, the first president of the fledgling United States of America, George Washington, proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving; however, it was the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln who, while the nation he presided over was racked by a terrible Civil War, proclaimed the final Thursday of November, 1863, to be celebrated across the North as a national day of remberance and religious observance. That date, and the holdiday it marks, are both with us still.

Of course, nowadays, in spite of its religious antecedants, the final Thursday of November is, for the vast majority of Americans, almost exclusively a secular holiday that is mainly associated with family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football. It is also — famously or infamously depending on one's point of view — the day that preceeds the peculiarly American commercial free-for-all known as "Black Friday". Nonetheless, as we make our separate arrangements to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and friends, let us all take a moment to remember those whose lives and circumstances have been made more precarious by our nation’s ongoing economic problems. And let us also set aside a little time to remember those who wear our country's uniform, and who presently serve in faraway and often perilous places on our behalf. This year, like the two preceding it, has been a challenging time for a great many Americans, but let us hope and pray that the year to come will be a better one for all of our fellow citizens, both friends and strangers, alike.

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