Thanksgiving is a holiday set aside for us to pause, count our blessings and give thanks.
Celebrated in different ways and on different dates in our early history, Abraham Lincoln is credited with making it a national holiday in 1863. In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt then set the date as the fourth Thursday in November. Living in the country, many of us have unique blessings to count.
1 - Thanks for a good harvest
Driving down country roads, I admire my farming neighbors’ abilities to bring in a crop and prepare their fields for the coming year. Their bounties sustain them and us and for that I am grateful.
At my cabin, on the other hand, my harvest is primarily acorns. The larger ones bounce off my tin roof sounding like squirrels are pummeling me for intruding on their forest.
2 - White House ceremonies
One of our traditional events of the holiday is the Presidential pardon of two turkeys, granting these birds a peaceful life on a farm.
Apparently, turkeys and politics go together. Birds of a feather, I guess.
Out in the country, our turkeys are destined for a different type of celebration.
3 - Friends and family
Thanksgiving is also a time for gathering with friends and family. The sound of voices mingling into the music of mirth brings cheer.
My friends include many four-legged and winged creatures that show up with regularity yet never outstay their welcome. Those are the best friends a fellow can have.
4 - Thanksgiving morning
In many states, small game hunting seasons are open on Thanksgiving. So whether it’s the yodel of beagles chasing rabbits or the graceful sweep of a quail field by setters, the youngsters can join in on the hunt and watch the dogs work. It also gets everyone out from underfoot so the cooks can get some serious work done, for which all will be thankful later.
5 - The Thanksgiving Turkey
You can hardly mention Thanksgiving without summoning visions of a browned, steaming turkey in the center of the table surrounded by casseroles, vegetables, rolls, and sweets.
Many hunters I know harvest their own turkeys in the spring, saving them for just this event. With my hunting skills, I am more likely to harvest a Butterball turkey from the grocery store and keep their help line on speed dial.
6 - Home-grown and cooked with care
Many Thanksgiving dishes come from our gardens, the canned fruits and vegetables lining cupboards to decorate our walls. These are then converted into mouth-watering morsels using recipes dusted off for these special occasions.
My own lack of cooking skills is balanced by my exceptional eating skills. So when I ask what I can bring, the traditional answer is, “Ice.” That’s a recipe even I can master.
7 - Give thanks for your health
One of our better traditions is to give thanks at our meal for all our blessings. In these times, being thankful for good health is no small matter.
In my case, health is relative as all my moving parts move less than they used to. I feel a bit like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz after being left out in the rain. Still, I’m thankful to be moving even if I’m a bit rusted.
8 - After the dinner
Thanksgiving traditions include watching parades or playing football. I remember days of touch football in the yard when we dragged all our adult family off the porch to join in.
Sometimes, we would go hiking through the woods, crunching in dry leaves while we found ways to amuse ourselves. We would race leaves in the creeks like small boats or walk logs like circus acrobats.
All of this, of course, was just a way to work off dinner to make room for leftovers.
9 - Leftovers
Thanksgiving leftovers are the best of the year. Cold turkey sandwiches rank up there as one of my favorite delicacies.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Thanksgiving leftovers changed the way America eats. By their account, in 1953 the Swanson company overestimated how much turkey they could sell and had 260 tons of leftovers. Someone in the company had the bright idea to turn them into turkey meals, thus inventing the TV Dinner. In the following year, they sold 10 million turkey dinners for 98 cents each, creating the easy meal and feeding a generation of couch potatoes.
10 - Rest and relaxation
After big meals and lots of exercise, we can rest well that night. And it’s a good thing for all those people who go out on Black Friday to shop for Christmas.
Luckily, in the country, we usually have small-store options where we can browse in leisure without fighting the crowds. I tend to continue my Thanksgiving celebration by avoiding all malls and large stores, preferring to spend my time trying to figure out why those squirrels picked my cabin to drop acorns on.
11 - Counting country blessings
Perhaps a country Thanksgiving allows us to participate in this holiday as it was originally intended.
Relaxing rather than rushing, counting blessings rather than money, and spending time with family rather than just spending time, this holiday can be celebrated anywhere. Still, a country Thanksgiving might just be the best kind.