In the United States, the end of November means Thanksgiving, or Turkey Time. But why the turkey? The Pilgrims and their Native American hosts, the Wampanoag people, most likely did not feast on turkey in 1621.
It wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln gave the Thanksgiving Proclamation, making it a national holiday on the last Thursday in November, which President F.D. Roosevelt later changed to the fourth Thursday in November. There was no mention of a turkey by either president.
James W. Baker, Senior Historian at Plymouth Plantation, sets the record straight: “Thanksgiving is an invented tradition. It doesn’t originate in any one event. It is based on the New England Puritan Thanksgiving, which is a religious Thanksgiving, and the traditional harvest celebrations of England and New England and maybe other ideas like commemorating the pilgrims. All of these have been gathered together and transformed into something different from the original parts.”
Thanksgiving is a time to take stock of our lives and give thanks for all that we have, so why not let the turkeys give thanks, too?
Try these ideas for expressing gratitude for the good things in your life without harming a turkey:
1. Prepare a Vegetarian Thanksgiving
Let’s start by giving thanks for healthy alternatives to turkey. Put a spin on traditional Thanksgiving dishes and go vegetarian: a tofu turkey can be packed with stuffing, basted and baked like a bird for several hours. Serve with all the trimmings — gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
In fact, if you think about it, there’s a lot more to the meal than the turkey. If your family is like most, there are probably at least five crucial side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner, too. With sides like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, dressing and cranberries, you could just skip the turkey without worrying about a replacement.
2. Start a Gratitude Journal
List three things you’re grateful for today. Do it again tomorrow. Gratitude journals focus emotional energy on what’s right, not what’s wrong, so you’ll find that you’re facing each day looking for the positive.
Counting your blessings has benefits. Research shows people who practice gratitude feel greater joy, cope better with stress and experience less illness and depression.
3. Give to Your Favorite Charity
Giving to charity feels good, and the holidays are a perfect time to support your favorite cause. Knowing that the charities you support are truly making a difference and will use your gifts wisely feels great. But how do you find out about these groups? If you’re not sure about a particular charity, there are several organizations such as GuideStar that will provide detailed research to help you choose.
4. Share What You Have With Others
A small but thoughtful gift, or even something as simple as fresh flowers, can make a person’s day. There is something magical about baking a special cake, or making jam or jelly from the apricots or blackberries growing in your backyard, and then taking your home-prepared goodies to a friend.
5. Volunteer at a Public Park
This could be at a local park or botanical garden that needs extra help to keep it in good shape. Volunteers do any number of things, including picking up trash, removing ivy, rebuilding trails, planting seeds or painting picnic tables. Or you could sign up for one of many cleanup operations such as the Adopt-a-Crag events organized by the Access Fund.
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