November 22, 2017 5:23:28 PM
Long before Abe Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday in 1863 and long before the Pilgrims' 1621 feast that inspired it, a guy in Rome best expressed the idea behind what we recognize today as Thanksgiving:
"A thankful heart is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the other virtues," Cicero wrote more than 2,000 years ago.
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in our uniquely American way, which is to say we all have our own ideas about the holiday, what it means and how it should be observed.
Oh, there are some ideas that are universally accepted -- it almost always revolves around a meal with turkey as the main course.
We generally use the holiday to surround ourselves with family and sometimes with close family friends.
For some, the holiday has deep religious meaning, an opportunity to acknowledge, as George Washington did upon declaring a "Day of Thanksgiving" in 1789, "the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."
For others, it is a more secular event. Since it became an official holiday by Lincoln's presidential proclamation in 1863, all sorts of traditions have sprung up around Thanksgiving Day -- football games (tonight, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will play for the 22nd time on Thanksgiving Day, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (a tradition since 1924) and Christmas shopping (a recent trend that gives shoppers a head-start on the Black Friday mayhem to follow).
Throw in all the family traditions that have become a part of Thanksgiving Day and you soon discover Thanksgiving is as rich and varied as the nation that celebrates it.
But we do hope that the common theme -- that of thankfulness, gratitude, a recognition of that portion of life's joys that have come our way -- is not entirely forgotten on this day.
While acknowledging there are those in difficult circumstances, there is always something that we can all truly be thankful for. We may discover, as Cicero long ago observed, that gratitude makes us better people.
When we are aware of our blessings, we are kinder, more empathetic, more compassionate, more optimistic, even healthier people, studies have shown.
It's a good habit to develop, this spirit of gratitude, one that can and should endure beyond the day itself.
So, no matter how you choose to observe it, we wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!
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