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The real meaning of Thanksgiving

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

Some people believe that Thanksgiving Day celebrates the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.  If we are not careful about the real meaning, maybe one day?  I do remember when the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade would never, ever proceed Remembrance Day.  Now? If you haven’t noticed some stores have had Thanksgiving Day greeting cards since the end of August, so is it also getting too commercialized, just like other holidays?  Is Remembrance Day next?

So what is the real meaning of and history of Thanksgiving Day?  It was meant to be a day of gratitude for all the blessings and bountiful harvests of the past season.  I think we all know about turkeys, pilgrims and Plymouth Rock from watching American TV shows, but what is the Canadian history of this holiday?

In Newfoundland in 1578, a holiday feast was held by Martin Frobisher to celebrate survival of his long journey.  Other settlers arrived and continued giving thanks for surviving their own long journeys   But hundreds of years before, in Europe, farmers held celebrations at the harvest time. The first official Canadian Thanksgiving day was celebrated in the spring on April 5, 1872 in gratitude for the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.  It was seven years before Parliament declared it to be an annual national holiday.  The date was moved several times until 1957 when it was declared that we celebrate on the second Monday in October.  Our American cousins continue to celebrate on the last Thursday in November, but that date is a little late for Canadian harvests and it might prevent some of us from celebrating outdoors, thus the earlier Canadian Thanksgiving.

So what will the Thanksgiving holiday mean to you this year?  For some it merely means being happy for continued good health.  My sense is that we often take things for granted and even expect “things” which we feel will add to our happiness. Once we get them, maybe then we can be “thankful.” I look at our youth and the not so young and their iPods, cellphones, tablets, etc.  For some of the students I taught, you would think these items are necessary for happiness, and what about you and I?

Maybe your checklist for things to be grateful for might reflect my own.  I am thankful for my spouse, my four sons and their families, my other family members, my friends.  I am not without some health issues (diabetes, asthma, and now I’m on blood thinners) but on the whole I am thankful for my health.  I’m grateful for our home, our two vehicles, our pensions, our health care system, my education, our freedom to vote and for the freedom to practice our faith.

We have all heard about not knowing how good you had it, till it was taken away. Imagine going through what areas around Ottawa went through recently or the Carolinas in the States. What do you have now that you would never want to lose, materially speaking?  As mentioned in my recent column, when my wife’s iPhone broke down, I could sympathize with her loss of communication with family and friends.

I mentioned some time ago about creating a gratitude list.  I think that at this time especially making such a list is a good idea.  I think it would be a good practice to have the entire family make such a list and share it, maybe at your Thanksgiving dinner.  In the meantime, I hope you and yours  have a grateful Thanksgiving. Grateful that for most of us we have all that we need, not necessarily all that we want.

Finally I would be remiss if I did not say thank you to the Oshawa Express staff for the opportunity of writing this column for over 10 years now and a special thank you to you who read it, and send me emails or even stop me in the streets (or mall).  Thank you and as always I’m at