I love holidays and all the traditions that make them special and different from other days in the calendar.  One of my favorites is Thanksgiving!  Three things single out the last Thursday in November for me: FAITH, FAMILY AND FOOD! 

The last one is fairly obvious and doesn’t require much explanation: Thanksgiving is always associated with turkey and all that goes with this traditional American meal.  Of course, you can eat turkey anytime, but there is something especially festive when it’s served up on Thanksgiving Day.  Yum! 

Turkey, however, was almost named the “national bird” in colonial days.  If Benjamin Franklin had his way, something else might have found its way onto our Thanksgiving tables. That story, however, is a myth, based on a letter Franklin wrote to his daughter.  I can’t imagine a “turkey” on our national seal, so I, for one, am glad the Founding Fathers chose the bald eagle for that purpose, leaving the turkey for more mundane and more delicious culinary pursuits.  Surrounded by bread stuffing, sweet potatoes and other vegetables, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving turkey is the way to go!

A second great reason for enjoying the celebration of Thanksgiving is FAMILY.  AAA cites this holiday as the busiest travel time of the year, with almost 43 million Americans taking to the highways and skyways to “go home” to spend time with their families. That’s where we want to be. 

In many ways, we might say “Thanksgiving is all about family.”  What could be better than being with those we love most?  I know that’s what my Mom always used to say, and who works harder to bring families together than our mothers, the heart of our family life and love.  And when our Moms pass, the loving homes they created keep their memories alive.  We make “family” of whomever we spend this wonderful holiday with: friends, neighbors or others who just want to celebrate being together.

And then there is FAITH, the third great reason – the greatest reason – for the day that has come to be known as “Thanksgiving.” If it were not for the faith of the early settlers, gathered to give thanks to God for bringing them safely to a new land of plenty and for the harvest they enjoyed, this holiday would not be one of our national traditions. 

Regardless of any particular religion but certainly in our Catholic and Judaeo-Christian faith, joyfully giving thanks to our loving Creator for all God’s awesome blessings is an ancient and honorable practice, affirmed in sacred scripture, worth everything for which this special holiday is celebrated each year.  The pilgrims and early colonists recognized that.  Our first president, George Washington, did as well, proclaiming its first national observance as “a day of public prayer and thanksgiving to be observed by grateful hearts acknowledging the many and signal favors of Almighty God (November 26, 1789).” 

His successors in office issued similar decrees and, shortly before his death in 1963, President John F. Kennedy wrote, “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers … far from home and in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time for thanksgiving.  On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God (November 5, 1963).”

And so, we celebrate Thanksgiving in our country every year on the final Thursday of November with FAITH, FAMILY and FOOD, three great reasons that bring us together on this special holiday but that should also be in our minds and hearts every day.