Every American knows today is Thanksgiving. Yet how many know its official name?
Abraham Lincoln was the first president to declare it "A National Day of Thanksgiving" 139 years ago. But he wasn't the first to take note of it. George Washington signed a proclamation in 1789 urging that Thursday, Nov. 26, be observed as "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer."
The proclamation President Bush signed this week says, "As the Pilgrims did almost four centuries ago, we gratefully give thanks this year for the beauty, abundance and opportunity this great land offers."
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday which celebrates a feast in 1621 when the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag Indians to enjoy the fruits of their first harvest. It was thanks to the Wampanoags that the Pilgrims survived the brutal winter after their landing.
And as the presidential proclamations down through the centuries indicate, the holiday celebrates Americans, and the land they live on, for being especially blessed.
Thanksgiving, then, is the day we set aside to enjoy the bounty God has bestowed us. Perhaps this is why of all the American holidays, Thanksgiving has been the least corrupted by commercialization.
It is the tranquil holiday - a time for families and friends to get together to relax, eat, drink and be quietly merry. This is why Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of many Americans.
But there's another dimension to Thanksgiving besides thanking God for our good fortune and talking and eating turkey with our loved ones - which is, after all, the easy part, the fun part.
What about sharing some of those blessings, bounties and good times with the many lonely, suffering people out there with nowhere to go, nothing to celebrate? Filling that void takes commitment and sacrifice, but it can be done. In fact, it is being done by charities, churches and volunteers throughout the Central Savannah River Area.
To them, a special thanks - for giving.