Celebrating a year of blessings

“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. These bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, are of so extraordinary a nature, they cannot fail to penetrate and soften every heart,” said former President Abraham Lincoln, upon declaring a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.More than a century and a half later, the holiday of Thanksgiving continues to serve as a time for many to visit with family and reflect on the blessings within their lives.While the Thanksgiving of today often includes a lavish feast, the nation’s first Thanksgiving was much more simple.In 1621, following a difficult first year in the New World, the Plymouth colonists, commonly known as Pilgrims, had their first successful fall harvest. Crops such as corn, fruits and other vegetables, combined with a high supply of fish and smoke cured meats to make their lives plentiful. The harvest also allowed the Pilgrims to save food for the winter, ensuring they would survive the harsh months to come.The Pilgrims were also thankful to be at peace with their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians. In celebration of the blessings, they shared their good fortune with the Indians in what is known as the first Thanksgiving. The foods enjoyed that day had little resemblance to what is known today. Things such as turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie were not available for the first feast, leaving room on the table for venison and wild fowl.In addition, items such as forks and knives weren’t readily available, leaving Pilgrims and Indians to eat the holiday meal with their bare hands.From the first Thanksgiving, the act of preparing an autumn feast for family and friends became a tradition in the New World. Following the first feast, the celebration of Thanksgiving continued later in the 13 colonies and eventually became a national holiday following the proclamation by Lincoln.Students at SHSU said while the common foods may have changed the idea of spending Thanksgiving with people close to you has not. Many Bearkats look forward to spending the holiday with family.”I’m going to stay home, which is here in Huntsville and we’re having about 30 family members over, and we’re all going to eat all day long and stuff ourselves,” senior Brandon Cooper said. “I’m really looking forward to it because I don’t get to see my family, all of them at least, very often.”For many students, helping to prepare the meal is an important part of the celebration.”I’m going to go home and cook for everybody,” junior Randee Gentz said. “I help cook for my family every year and just stay around the house.””I’m planning to just be with my family and help cook,” senior Rhonda King said. “I’m also looking forward to being out of school for a couple days and having some leisure time.”The Thanksgiving holiday is also a time when students and the nation at large take time to focus on what they are thankful for. The support of family and friends as well as the chance to attend college are common blessings expressed by Bearkats.”I’m thankful to be able to go to college, to have a car and to have my family,” junior Jamie Finke said. “I’m thankful for God, for my pledge class, my other sorority sisters and my family because they have always been there for me,” King said.Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season causes many students to reflect on what is most important to them.”I’m thankful that I’m able to come here and go to school. I’m always thankful for my family,” Gentz said. “Most of all, I’m just thankful for being here, for being alive.”

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