When Do You Give Thanks?

It has become customary for Americans to gather once a year with friends and family to express thanks for their fortunes, to participate in acts of kindness, and in the modern era of social media to have countdown lists of gratitude.

Where does gratitude come from within you? Is it a once-a-year thing?

Why do you express thanks, when, to whom, and for what?

Yes, the story of a day of thanksgiving dates back to the pilgrims, and it's true that the Mayflower pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast alongside the Pokanoket Indians in 1621. But even before that, a thanksgiving celebration was held in what is now Texas by Spanish explorers under Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541. The French Huguenots in Florida also gave praise and feasted in 1564. Then English settlers in Maine joined the Abnaki Indians for a harvest meal in 1607.

The Continental Congress issued the first First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving in November 1777 after the colonial victories over British General John Burgoyne in the Battles of Saratoga. Washington, encouraged by the House of Representatives, attempted a national day of "public thanksgiving and prayer" in 1789. To mark the day he sent funds to prisoners to buy provisions, which is at the root of charitable acts associated with the holiday. But the tradition Washington attempted to create didn't take, as Thomas Jefferson objected to a call to prayer after the federal government agreed to the separation of church and state.

Seventy-four years later, It was the author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" whose constant pleas for a national day of Thanksgiving resulted in the annual turkey carnage (nobody eats lamb on Thanksgiving. Coincidence?).

For nearly 40 years, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale urged lawmakers and executives, including six presidents, to create a holiday dedicated to giving thanks. By 1855, 16 states had a day in November on the books. Lincoln, moved by a letter Hale had written to him, declared the national holiday five days later.

This occurrence - a national holiday of thanksgiving - took place in the heart of a civil war, in the midst of strife unseen, literally, in some cases, of brother against brother. More so Lincoln vociferously thanks God and urges his fellow citizens to "praise our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens" for the nation's fortunes, stating at the start of his proclamation, "The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies." Lincoln proceeds to describe the nation's growth in resources, wealth, land, and population.

Maybe most astonishingly, this national holiday is the result of one woman's committed effort to get her personal cause to an end goal. This was 60 years before women even had the right to vote.

Is it truly a wonder that this favorite holiday came to pass? And knowing what you know about the tradition, commitment, and effort that went into its creation, do you wonder why you feel a buzz in the air around this time of year?

So ask yourself:

How do you approach gratitude when you're confronting awful circumstances?

Share your thoughts in the comments or start your own thread telling your story.

I give thanks every time I pray, for the many blessings of having the fortune to find my true love, and for the ability to work hard to make a better life for my family.