Thanksgiving is a great American holiday where friends, families and neighbors come together for a festive meal. As with many traditions, it’s easy to just eat, drink and be merry while forgetting some of the great lessons and meanings of the holiday. This year, many are struggling with the holiday as never before.  Yet, Thanksgiving was started to celebrate the value of struggle. The Pilgrims knew  that daily life, freedom from tyranny, and a democratic society is never easy, can never be taken for granted, and is worth the commitment.

When the Pilgrims arrived on our shores, immediate actions on every front were required. Survival depended on it. Yet, as serious as they were about creating a new life, new society, and new value-based community, after months of toil, the first Thanksgiving was created because they also realized the importance of “The Pause,” a time to reflect on how far they had come, the bounty they had scrapped together, and their collective hope for the future.

Thanksgiving will always be relevant and give us continued reason to reflect on the lessons provided by our true founding fathers — the Pilgrims and Native Americans.  Here are six that hopefully we can take forward from Thanksgiving to practice throughout the coming year:

  1. Sustenance. Thanksgiving is a time to take time for a good, solid home-cooked meal balanced with lean protein, luscious carbs, and delectable vegetables. To stay strong, we need good food, rest, and replenishment.
    • One day a year for all three is not enough, but it’s a start to commit to continued self-care to have the strength for the continued fight for the good life.
  2. Discourse.  One value of a shared meal is time  it affords over several meal courses for discourse — time to discuss events, successes, failures, hopes and fears. It allows a community of individuals to better understand and support each other, listen and determine how we might move forward.
    • Depending on your own situation, commit to more family-style meals throughout the year — if not daily at least on some more regular basis to allow discourse in a communal setting.
  3. Celebration of Immigration.  The Pilgrims immigrated to this land in search of a new life. The Native Americans, already here, were not always welcoming, but they did come to the table that first Thanksgiving.  All immigrants since have come for the same reasons, and have also not always been welcomed for the same reasons — the land’s resources now would have to be shared.  Yet, the immigrant spirit became a core of this country’s values and stands tall in NY Harbor with a torch to remind us to welcome others as we were all once welcomed.
    • Look forward to how we can stay open to new immigrants and Look Back to how we can continue to celebrate Native American culture and teachings.
  4. Hope.  Many of the first pilgrims did not survive in the harsh New World environment. Yet, at Thanksgiving and other times we hold hope that we can make the pilgrim vision work and thrive in this great land.
  5. Fortitude.  Thanksgiving celebrates the bounty we have harvested to date with the knowledge that a long winter is close ahead. The cold winter in most northern corners cannot be avoided, but we can survive it and perhaps even thrive.  It takes vigilance, budgeting, rationing of resources/time, ongoing action to create fires for warmth, and determination to make it to the next spring. But, thankfully, spring is around the corner as well as new harvests and new years to come.
  6. Gratitude. As at the first Thanksgiving, we must always be grateful for being in this great country, for having  come this far, for the chance to make a go of it, to be with a growing new family, and for the chance to live free not under the reign of a tyrannical or even magnanimous king. We are grateful for being a community of people who come together to foster a better life for ourselves and those around us.

Tweetable: Celebrate Thanksgiving all year long. It’s more than gratitude. 6 Lessons from a great holiday  @LittleHinges