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Thanksgiving – Special Traditions

Favorite Family Holiday!

Karen and Jay express their enthusiasm for Thanksgiving and the special traditions of this wonderful family holiday!

There’s a lot to like about Thanksgiving! That’s why it just might be our favorite holiday of the year. Families coming together. Festive. Gratitude. Traditions. And without the intensity or pressure that can sometimes creep into the Christmas season. Just a fun time – to relax and begin to appreciate the goodness in your life. Plus, the day after Thanksgiving. That Friday. Such an odd and wonderful day. No real obligations. Just eat some more turkey – and continue to catch up with family and friends.

At the heart of Thanksgiving is the gathering of families, near and far, coming together to share a meal and create lasting memories. It's a time when homes are filled with laughter, warmth, and the comforting aroma of a bountiful feast. This shared experience fosters a sense of unity and belonging, reinforcing the idea that family is a source of strength and support. Whether it's a large extended family or an intimate gathering, Thanksgiving provides a unique opportunity for loved ones to reconnect and strengthen the ties that bind them.

Interestingly, in our family, we have developed a tradition that we call ‘taking in strays.’ In other words, there are always some people who don’t have a family with whom to spend the day and celebrate Thanksgiving. So, we invite them to join us. As it turns out, this has been a tremendously rewarding part of our holiday. Doing something nice for somebody else, making them feel welcome. And at the same time, adding some joy and spice to our own experience. In a sense, expanding our family.

At the same time, gratitude takes center stage during this festive occasion, as we all pause to reflect on the blessings in our lives. The act of expressing thanks for the abundance of good fortune, health, and meaningful relationships fosters a positive mindset and reinforces a sense of appreciation. Thanksgiving serves as a powerful reminder to look beyond the challenges and difficulties, focusing instead on the positive aspects of life. This practice of gratitude not only enriches the individual experience but also contributes to the creation of a more harmonious and compassionate society.

The traditions associated with Thanksgiving play a pivotal role in making the holiday a cherished and enduring part of our New England experience and more generally our American culture. From the iconic Thanksgiving turkey to the ritual of sharing what each person is thankful for, these customs create a sense of continuity and connection across generations. Families pass down recipes, stories, and rituals, creating a rich tapestry of shared experiences that link the present to the past. These traditions provide a sense of stability and comfort, reminding individuals of their roots and the enduring values that shape their lives. In our family – it’s who makes the mashed potatoes? Who carves the turkey? Who gets served first? And more.

As families gather around the table, we not only share a meal but also create enduring memories and strengthen the bonds that make Thanksgiving a time-honored celebration. Through the years, this beloved holiday continues to be a beacon of warmth, love, and tradition, making it a truly special and meaningful occasion for generations to come.

Thanksgiving in New Hampshire

In the heart of New England, nestled amidst rolling hills and vibrant fall foliage, lies our wonderful state of New Hampshire, a place where Thanksgiving is not just a holiday, but a cherished tradition deeply rooted in local spirit and culinary delights. The truth is – there is no better place in all the world to celebrate Thanksgiving – than right here in the Granite State!

Far from the bustling crowds and commercialized festivities, New Hampshire's Thanksgiving beckons with its warm embrace, inviting residents and visitors alike to embark on a journey of shared experiences and heartfelt gratitude.

One of the most endearing traditions that sets New Hampshire apart is the annual "Turkey Trot," a lively event that transforms towns into scenes of merriment and camaraderie. As the sun casts its golden hues across the crisp autumn air, community members gather in our finest turkey ensembles, ready to embark on a pre-feast walk or run. The air crackles with laughter and lighthearted banter, creating a sense of unity that transcends age and background.

New Hampshire's Thanksgiving also boasts a distinct culinary identity, one that honors the state's rich agricultural heritage. With farms dotting the landscape, families take pride in crafting our Thanksgiving feasts with fresh produce, meats, and dairy products sourced from our local communities. The aroma of roasted vegetables, slow-cooked meats, and freshly baked pies wafts through homes, creating an irresistible symphony of flavors that captures the essence of New Hampshire's culinary soul.

Our state's natural beauty serves as an enchanting backdrop for Thanksgiving celebrations. Families venture into the crisp autumn air, our footsteps crunching against a carpet of fallen leaves. Hiking trails beckon with our promise of panoramic vistas, while leaf-peeping expeditions unveil nature's masterpiece in a kaleidoscope of colors. The serenity of the outdoors provides a sanctuary for reflection, a space to pause and appreciate the simple joys of life.

Thanksgiving in New Hampshire is a testament to the state's unique blend of community spirit, culinary pride, and reverence for nature. And, of course, our fiercely independent character. It is a time when families gather around tables overflowing with local bounty, sharing stories, laughter, and gratitude for the blessings that surround them. The spirit of Thanksgiving permeates the air, a warm embrace that lingers long after the feast is over, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of New Hampshire residents and visitors alike.

The Spirit of Thanksgiving: A Celebration of 'Thanks for Giving'

As November begins to draw to a close and the days get shorter, the spirit of Thanksgiving emerges, encapsulating a profound sense of gratitude and generosity. Beyond the turkey feasts and pumpkin pies, Thanksgiving is fundamentally linked with the spirit of 'thanks for giving.' This very special holiday serves as a poignant reminder for us all - of the importance of expressing gratitude for the blessings we have received, and the joy found in giving to others.

We at the Sunshine Initiative are profoundly aware of this dynamic and make ‘giving’ a centerpiece of our efforts. For instance, this year we have sponsored and led a Community Food Drive – in the greater Newport-Claremont area – to make sure that no one goes hungry during this most special time of the year. And, how rewarding it has been to see the enthusiastic participation – all throughout the community!

At the core of the Thanksgiving holiday is the practice of gratitude. Families and friends gather around tables laden with traditional dishes, taking a moment to reflect on the abundance of blessings in their lives. This expression of thanks fosters a sense of appreciation for the intangible aspects of life, such as love, health, and community. The act of giving thanks is not confined to words; it is a heartfelt acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of individuals and the collective gratitude that binds communities together.

Yet, Thanksgiving also extends beyond mere gratitude; it embodies the joy of giving back. Whether through volunteer efforts, charitable donations, or simple acts of kindness, individuals embrace the spirit of 'thanks for giving' by contributing to the well-being of others. Several members of the Sunshine Initiative will be helping serve at Harbor Care’s Thanksgiving Community Dinner. And speaking of communities, this is a time where communities come together to ensure that everyone can experience the warmth and abundance of the holiday season. In this spirit, Thanksgiving becomes a powerful catalyst for fostering a culture of generosity and compassion.

Many Thanksgiving traditions inherently reflect the spirit of 'thanks for giving.' From the custom of sharing a bountiful meal with loved ones to the practice of inviting those less fortunate to partake in the festivities, these traditions underscore the importance of giving and sharing. Additionally, the act of expressing thanks often involves acknowledging the efforts and contributions of others, reinforcing the idea that gratitude is a reciprocal and communal experience.

And after the Thanksgiving holiday concludes, the spirit of 'thanks for giving' lingers, encouraging individuals to carry the essence of gratitude and generosity into their daily lives. The values instilled during this time inspire people to cultivate a continuous mindset of giving, promoting empathy, kindness, and a sense of interconnectedness. Ultimately, the spirit of Thanksgiving serves as a yearly reminder that expressing thanks is not only a personal practice but also a communal endeavor that strengthens the bonds of humanity.

Positive Profile of the Week: Sara Josepha Hale

We think of her every year at this time because she truly was the motivating force behind establishing Thanksgiving as the federal holiday that it is today.

She was definitely persistent in her efforts. In fact, she petitioned five different Presidents over a period of 36 years – in an attempt to ensure that Thanksgiving would become an official national holiday. She consistently communicated the following message to a succession of Presidents:

"Our Thanksgiving Day, becoming the focus of private life and the virtues of the people, should be hallowed and exalted and made the day of generous deeds and innocent enjoyments, of noble aspiration and heavenly hopes."

Finally, and thankfully, President Lincoln, in responding to her letter, on October 3rd, 1863, fulfilled her wish and officially proclaimed the day as one of "thanksgiving and praise.”

Her legacy may rest with the helping of founding Thanksgiving as a national holiday, but the Newport resident is also known for her ‘Poems for Our Children’ and her nursery rhyme, including one that is known by nearly every schoolchild in America - “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

But her life story is fascinating in ways that go beyond Thanksgiving and Mary Had a Little Lamb.’ Born in 1788, Hale was more educated than many women of her time. Her future appeared bright as she married and up and coming lawyer in Newport, had five children, and seemed destined for a quiet domestic life. Unfortunately, however, after nine years of marriage, her husband passed away after riding his horse through an ice storm to see a client, becoming quite ill, and ultimately succumbing. As a result, she became a widow and a single mother, left to figure out how to earn a living and raising her five children.

Undeterred, Hale pushed forward and accomplished the almost unthinkable for a woman of that era. She became a writer, sold her works and eventually was able to move to Boston and become a publisher. And thereafter - editor of ‘Godey’s Lady’s Book Magazine’ – essentially the leading women’s journal of her time. This little girl who had grown up in the small town of Newport, New Hampshire, had risen to become the leading female literary figure of her time – as well as the ultimate arbiter of taste and fashion in America.

In addition, she used her influence as a writer and editor to promote the Suffrage and Abolitionist Movements and focused on children's education. She also helped fund the preservation of George Washington’s home and the Bunker Hill monument.

Her legacy as a woman ahead of her time serves as an exciting inspiration to us all. And so, as we pause to enjoy Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to give thanks to this incredible woman from my hometown of Newport – and extend our heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Hale!

Quotes of the Week: Thanksgiving Traditions

"Thanksgiving is more than a meal; it's a celebration of the diverse traditions that make us American. It's a time to honor the past, savor the present, and build a future steeped in gratitude and unity." - Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them. Let us carry the spirit of Thanksgiving into our daily lives and traditions." - John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

"Thanksgiving is a time when the heart opens to remember the best of our past and our heritage. It is a tradition that, more than any other, fosters a spirit of gratitude." - Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul and Philanthropist "In every family, there is a story, and Thanksgiving is the chapter where traditions are written, and memories are made, connecting us to our American heritage." - Maya Angelou, Poet and Civil Rights Activist "The true richness of Thanksgiving lies not just in the feast before us but in the traditions that transform a meal into a celebration of family, love, and heritage." - Karen White


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