Growing up in the piedmont region of Georgia, we had an amazing traditional Southern Thanksgiving menu each year: turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato soufflé, rice, biscuits, gravy, creamed corn, green beans, fresh tomatoes, and an assortment of homemade pickles and sauces. Then for dessert: cranberry pie, sweet potato pie (not pumpkin as you may recall from a sermon), and sometimes scuppernong pie or pecan pie. Cranberry, scuppernong, and sweet potato are three of my very favorite pies. The scuppernongs came from our own vines, and the corn, beans, tomatoes, and the okra and cucumbers that became pickles came from our garden.
My favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition, which I loved even more than the extraordinary meal, was what we did together after the feast. We took a walk. After all the preparations, after all the feasting, and after the cleanup, my parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I took a walk through wooded acres and acres of pastures that had been in our family since the nineteenth century. In later years, my nieces and nephews joined in. By the time Becky and my grand nieces and grand nephews joined the mix, my Dad could no longer take the walk. But most of the rest of us still did.
This physical activity together gave expression to the spirit of the holiday in ways beyond sharing our favorite seasonal foods. We were on the move together, retracing steps that we had made ourselves and that our forebears had made before us. We observed how things changed over the years even as the landscape remained much the same. We appreciated the beauty of creation. We were moved to truly give thanks for the land and the food and our life and our life together. I'm still enjoying those walks. And I'm still giving thanks for all those blessings and many, many more.
Becky and I send our very best love and wishes to all of you and all of yours for a wonderful weekend of gratitude and praise and for a special time with special people. Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you all.
A Thanksgiving Timeline from the National Park Service:
1541: Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and the Teya Indians hold a feast in Palo Duro Canyon (Texas).
1621: The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians hold a feast at Plymouth Colony (Massachusetts).
1777: All 13 Colonies hold thanksgiving celebrations.
1789: President George Washington declares November 26th, a national day of thanksgiving.
1815: President James Madison declares a national day of prayer and thanksgiving.
1827: Sarah Josepha Hale writes essays calling for an annual national celebration of thanksgiving.
1846: Mrs. Hale conducts a letter-writing campaign to make the last Thursday of November a national day of thanksgiving.
1863: President Lincoln issues a proclamation calling for the last Thursday of November to be set aside as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise.”
1920: The first Thanksgiving parade is held in Philadelphia.
1922: The National Football League plays its first games on Thanksgiving Day
1924: The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is held in New York City.
1934: The National Football League holds its first game on Thanksgiving Day.
1941: After altering the date of Thanksgiving, President Franklin Roosevelt reestablishes the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
1947: President Harry Truman pardons a turkey that is marked for Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.
--from the National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/liho/learn/historyculture/lincoln-and-thanksgiving.htm#:~:text=Abraham%20Lincoln%27s%20Thanksgiving%20Proclamation,-In%20July%201863&text=On%20October%203%2C%201863%2C%20with,a%20day%20of%20Thanksgiving...)