Thanksgiving – Understanding The Holiday

Thanksgiving to most folks means family and friends and Turkey, or maybe beer and football. Many do not know or even care about the significence of the Holiday. Way back in the 1600’s a group of people who were members of the English Separatist Church (Puritan’s) in England fled their homeland to escape religious persecution. They boarded a ship and sailed to Holland in the Netherlands. In Holland the people enjoyed a brief time free from the religious persecution they faced back in England, but they soon became frustrated with the Dutch peoples bad morals and what they considered sinful lifestyles.

Seeking yet a better way of life, the Separatists made a deal with a stock company in London to finance a trip to America on a ship named the Mayflower. There were others from England that were not separatists, in fact the majority that made the trip on the Mayflower were not.

The group arrived in America on Dec 11, 1620 and they set ground at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first winter season the pilgrims encountered in America was horrible. With extreme cold and blizzard conditions, they lost 46 of the original 102 who came over on the Mayflower. But the spring and summer of the next year was wonderful with most of the days pleasant and nice and most of the pilgrims staying healthy. The local indians showed them where and how to hunt and trap for the available game, and shared their secrets on growing and storing of the native crops. The harvest of 1621 was very bountiful and the pilgrims along with the local indians who had helped them survive their first year, decided to have a huge feast to celebrate and give thanks.

The feast or as it’s commonly called ‘The First Thanksgiving’ was probably held outside on handmade tables and benches, most of the people sat on blankets on the ground while eating, because records show that the colonists didn’t have a building large enough to accommodate all the people.

From an original letter of a member of the colony, Edward Winslow, here is the actual account of the First Thanksgiving celebration:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

From the hand written letter we can see that 1 Indian Chief or King and 90 others (91 total indians) that were invited as guests attended the event along with the pilgrims, and that the feast or celebration lasted 3 days. The celebration or feast was not repeated again until the year 1623, when during a severe drought the pilgrims all gathered and prayed for rain. The next day, a long steady rain occurred, and Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, and again the pilgrims or ‘colonists’ invited their indian friends to celebrate.

The next Thanksgiving celebration did not occur until the year 1676, when the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting on the best way to celebrate and give thanks for the good fortune their community had experienced. By voting, they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29th as a day of Thanksgiving.

Other dates that were important to the Thanksgiving Holiday were October of the year 1777, when there was a Thanksgiving holiday that was celebrated by all 13 colonies that had been established. In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving, and after a campaign of letter writing to presidents and governors, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. The date was altered a couple more times, but finally in 1941 it was sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, on the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains yet today.

Christmas Season Versus Holiday Season

In the United States, the month of December is the Christmas Season, not the Holiday Season. To the best of my knowledge there is only one holiday in December recognized by our government. December 25 was made a legal holiday in order to celebrate the birth of Christ. There are no other legal holidays during the month of December. Chanukah, Hannukah, or Hanukah is a celebration and, some say, a Jewish Holiday but it is not a legal holiday. Kwanza is a celebration and not a legal holiday. Christmas Eve is not a day and New Years Eve is not a day. We don’t call the month of May, the Holiday Season, even though that’s when Memorial Day is celebrated. On Martin Luther King Day we don’t have holiday parades, we have Martin Luther King Day parades. We don’t say happy holiday on the Fourth Of July, we say Happy Independence day or Happy Fourth Of July. Why then, do some people insist that we say happy holiday and holiday season when we are celebrating Christmas?

I’ll tell you why. It is because the organized religion of atheism (Yes atheism, is an organized religion, it is a religion of non belief.) is waging war against Christianity as the first battle in a war against all other religions. If they can defeat Christianity in this country of Christians, then they can defeat all religions that believe in a God or higher power.

I am a Christian. I don’t, however, know for sure, if Christ is the son of God or if he was a teacher or what. I do know, that I believe in the teachings ascribed to him. I do know, that even though we are humans and therefore can not and do not always follow all of those teachings, that if we all tried to live by those teachings of love and kindness, the whole world would be a better place. I also know that, I want Christ to be the Son of God because then it would mean that God did and does care about us and that there may very well be a Heaven.

I disagree with the director of special projects for the American Family Association when he says, “Christmas is not a holiday” and that calling Christmas a holiday “devalues our nation’s most holy day.” Christmas is a holiday. In fact, I consider Christmas and the Fourth Of July to be this country’s two most important and happiest holidays. The Fourth Of July celebrates the birth of our nation and Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. Workers are given Christmas Day off with pay, school children are given several days off for Christmas vacation. Offices hold Christmas parties. Families get together, listen to Christmas music, stuff themselves with food and give each other gifts. Marines collect “Toys For Tots”. The Salvation Army puts out it’s kettles and collects money which is used to help needy people all year long. Many family members who have been feuding all year round get together and forgive each other. Christmas is a holiday of love and forgiveness.

Christmas is a holiday that everyone, not just Christians, should celebrate. Almost no one denies that Christ did exist at one time. The controversy is, whether or not he is the son of God. Putting that controversy aside, Christ preached or taught “peace on earth and goodwill towards men”. If people bemoan the fact that John Lennon died because he was a fighter for peace, how can they not celebrate the fact that Christ was born? Christ was arguably the original teacher of peace, forgiveness and goodness. He lived and died promoting peace. He not only promoted peace, he lived peace. He not only taught forgiveness, he lived forgiveness. Christ set an example that has lived for over two thousand years. If Martin Luther King can have a holiday, if Presidents, Veterans, labor and others can have their own holidays, why shouldn’t Christ have a holiday.

A note to other religions: You should support Christmas. If you allow the atheists to kill off Christmas, it could be your religion that they go after next. There is a war being fought today. I’m not talking about the war in Iraq. I’m talking about the war against religion being brought by atheists and certain hard line fanatics on the far left. Right now, they are winning the war because religious groups are not fighting back in a cohesive manner. If religious groups don’t help each other, someday they will all cease to exist and the United States will become another Soviet Union. Taking away our right to participate in religion and to celebrate our religion is a first step in taking away our other freedoms.

One of the main reasons that the United States was able to become so great is that, contrary to what the atheists and some others tell you, we are not a secular country. Our whole method of government and our laws come in large part from our forefathers religious beliefs.

It may not seem so, but I am not against all atheists. They have a right to believe in non belief and I support that right. I am just against the activists that are trying to force their non beliefs down my throat. I am willing to leave them alone if they are willing to leave me and mine alone. The problem is that they won’t leave us alone. They don’t want to allow us to believe as we wish. They want us to believe as they do. They don’t believe in Christmas so they want to take Christmas away from us.

One final note to all you major retailers who want to sell me gifts for me to give as Christmas presents, if you won’t acknowledge the Christmas Season in your advertising and in your stores, then don’t expect me to shop in your stores. If you insist in saying holiday season and happy holidays instead of Christmas Season and Merry Christmas, then I will insist in not dealing with you. For the time being, at least, you are free to do as you wish and I’m free do as I wish. My wish is to boycott you, not only during the Christmas Season but for a long time to come. Heck, I’m still boycotting everything French and I’ve been boycotting Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine since the Vietnam War.

Three Secrets to Celebrating the Holidays

With a fragile economy, international peace precariously perched on a tightrope and family expectations still focused on visions of sugar plums from the past of perfect holiday celebrations, is it possible that you are already worried, weary and worn out?

Additionally, it is very easy to get caught up in the political correctness being reported 24/7 in the media today about whether you should wish one a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays. This adds to the stressful demands already placed upon you during the hectic holiday season. Christmas is the legal holiday celebrated on the 25th of December, and other great holidays like Hanukkah also fall during this special season providing many a special celebration of their own who do not celebrate a traditional Christmas.

The Celebration Secret

By trying to make this a politically correct holiday, a lot of negative feelings and energy are created by those determined to take the wonderful and glorious positive energy out of Christmas for the 95% of this nation’s population that celebrates Christmas. The celebration secret is, if Christmas has great meaning to you celebrate it with great enthusiasm and joy, and savor the moment. If Hanukkah is the holiday you celebrate, then celebrate it in your appropriate fashion and cherish it. If you are part of that 5% that celebrate other holidays, do so with appropriate gusto and/or reverence. Do not allow your holiday season to be stripped of its good cheer and be relegated to mediocre energy for you and yours. Savor the moment and enjoy your holidays to the fullest.

The Gift Giving Secret

Step 1 – Be realistic. Because of the economic circumstances, the holidays may be less abundant this year but if you can slow down and savor the moment you will be able to celebrate with less anxiety, be free of worry and full of joy. You can prevent holiday doom and gloom by handling fears and apprehension now ahead of time so be realistic. Reduce the unrealistic expectations for younger family members and eliminate the feelings of guilt if seniors cannot provide the usual contributions to holiday joy. This step alone will remove a great deal of stress and increase everyone’s enjoyment.

Step 2 – Give gifts others want. If you think like the millions of hurried shoppers that you can simply go to a store, pick out a gift, buy it, wrap it and then your job is done, think again! The real secret in gift giving is in knowing what the other person would love to receive, not what you think they should have. Success in gift giving comes from understanding the vast difference between these two options.

Don’t waste hard earned money and good intentions on impulse purchases or items you would like to receive. Just because you might love something doesn’t mean your friend, spouse, family members or co-workers will want or love it. Choose all of your gifts based on the knowledge that the recipient would love to receive the gift you’ve chosen.

Step 3 – Gifts that keep giving. Now that you know the secret for giving the perfect gift, below are three ideas that would make a great positive energy gifts that continue to give.

1. Give a gift that is symbolic of a good relationship such as tickets to a movie or the theater you can share. Or, give a beautifully framed picture of you or you and the family or you and your spouse at a very joy filled event. If the gift is for a significant other, you might consider a lovely double heart shaped crystal bud vase with two fresh roses in his or her favorite color and a promise to fill it once a week for the next three months.
2. Give a Gift of music that reduces stress or provides peace of mind. Feng Shui music can soothe the soul or encourage the weary and can be purchased at most music stores and online. Check out the Feng Shui music collection on the Energy-by-Design website or Steve Halpern online.
3. Give a Gift of Tranquility. An indoor tabletop water fountain is fun to have and enjoyable listening. When placed near the front door the flow of water encourages positive welcoming energy to enter the home or office. If it is placed in the north it also energizes career and spirituality. Its sound needs to be pleasant but not overwhelming. In fact, sound is as important as appearance.

The Decorating Secret

Take time to enjoy the decorating process. The festive indoor decorations, the bright lights and the colorful gift wrappings of this season are great personal energy builders that are a huge part of celebrating the season. Don’t just rush through and “git-r-done” as Larry the Cable Guy would say. In fact, holiday colors align very nicely with the Feng Shui 5 Elements Cycle.

• The color green represents the good health plus wealth of the element wood.
• Red represents the fire element which provides great fame and good luck.
• The blue of Hanukkah represents career and spirituality through the element of water.
• Silver and gold are the metal elements which encompass everything from creativity and children to travel and helpful people.
• The ornaments of the season are made out of blown glass or fired ceramics making them a great symbol of the element earth which encourages positive relationships and a grounded lifestyle.
• The bright lights further energize all who celebrate.

Slow down and savor the moment, you can never re-live this moment or be guaranteed it will ever happen again. Enjoy it now. Stand firm and celebrate the intent of your season, wishing those around you the appropriate good wishes. Give gifts your recipients will want and love, not the one you want to give. Give gifts that will help you and the recipient savor the moment and provide loving positive energy throughout the year ahead.

How to Actually Survive the Holidays

I know this time of year, everyone encourages you to be thankful for the good in your life. Holidays, by their very definition, should be a time of reflection and gratitude.

So how is it that this time of year sometimes becomes the craziest of all? Relatives to visit, parties to attend, extra meals to make, visitors, and let’s not forget – THE GIFTS!

I grew up not celebrating the holidays for religious reasons. That’s right, NO holidays. So I was in an interesting position… I had all this time off but no added stress or obligations.

My co-workers who knew this used to tell me how lucky I was. I remember thinking, “how sad is that?” Here they wait all year for this time of year and yet when it arrives, the stress outweighs the joy.

As I left that religion, I wondered how my old beliefs would come together with my new beliefs – especially around holiday time. Would I be okay with giving gifts (yes!), eating turkey on Thanksgiving (no problem there!), a Christmas tree in my house (so far, no).

One thing I realized I wanted was a part of the traditional holidays – more time with family and friends, the fun of finding the “perfect” gift for someone – but didn’t want the stress and overwhelm experienced by the people around me. The question was “Is that even possible?”

Turns out, yes. However, I’ve needed to be very strategic about it. Here are my tips for surviving the holidays – newbie though I be!

GIFT GIVING – One thing I’ve done in the past, and will never do again, is buy a lame gift for someone simply because I “have” to. It feels forced and deprives me of that warm and fuzzy feeling of giving in the first place. There really is more happiness in giving than in receiving – when I find that perfect gift for someone.

Now when I don’t find the perfect gift, does that just mean “oh well, too bad for you.” I’m thinking that wouldn’t go over well since reciprocity is the un-written rule of gift giving this time of year. So my solution to buying a less-than-perfect gift? I either make someone their favorite treat (chocolate, sugar cookies, etc.) or offer to take them out to lunch or dinner (on me) during the holiday season when they need a break. What better offer than a gift of your time and attention?

“ME” TIME VS. “US” TIME – One reason I think people get so crazed during the holiday season is there is so much time spent tending to others. I know there are many women who love the holidays just for this reason but admit to feeling a bit haggard once it’s over.

It’s important to balance the time you spend with others with the time you spend with yourself. Holidays are supposed to refresh us and give us more energy, not deplete us. And if we’re always giving to others but not “refilling our tank” eventually we’re going to run empty.

I have several “me” times that are becoming a ritual so I stay grounded during the holidays. (*Note: if you have children, I realize these suggestions will take a little more creativity to implement. But that’s no excuse not to do something for yourself!)

Day after Thanksgiving – For those who have Friday off after Thanksgiving (which should be a legal holiday by the way!), since Thursday was most likely spent with lots of relatives and friends, Friday is a great day for some alone time. Last year, I checked into Bristol Harbour Resort (which was empty and cheaper because of the holiday) and spent the day and night reading, sleeping, hiking, and sitting by the fire in absolute quiet. No TV, no cell phone, no computer. It was oddly unsettling at first. It’s only then that I realized how “noisy” life had become.

New Year’s Day – Now some people may not be in any condition to do any “heavy lifting” after imbibing the night before, but since I’m not a big drinker, I dedicate this day to contemplation – where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I want to go. I reflect on the past year and I write the following: the top 25 accomplishments from the year, the top 10 distractions (always big AHA’s for me here) and my top 10 goals for the coming year. To me, it’s the perfect way to start the New Year.

KEEPING RITUALS

Now this is where I think most people get it right. Many families have rituals they’ve followed for years. There is something comforting about familiarity and consistency.

Christmas Eve – For a long time, I spent Christmas Eve alone. As I said, my family doesn’t celebrate and most of my friends had plans with their own families. So with the stores closed and no one around, I started watching holiday-themed movies. I usually whipped up some “special” hot chocolate (I said I wasn’t a big drinker, not that I didn’t drink at all, popcorn and watched back-to-back movies. If you like chick-flicks, here are my recommendations: The Holiday (Jude Law – enough said!), Love Actually (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant – oh how did Bridget Jones choose?), and Notting Hill (Hugh Grant at his finest… hmm, are we seeing a theme here with British men?)

Trans-siberian Orchestra – If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve probably heard their music. Their live show is inspiring and electrifying. I’ve seen their concert the last five years (they always come to Rochester at some point during the holiday season) and I’m never disappointed. Just think opera, classical music, rock music, and holiday songs combined!

Given your specific obligations and circumstances, these suggestions may not work for you as I’ve described them. But the underlying principle remains the same. It’s up to you to make sure the holidays are what you want them and need them to be.