So, are you ready for Thanksgiving? Turkey bought? Pies ordered? (I’ve heard more and more folks are ordering pies than making them.) Launched a search for the gravy boat and turkey platter?

Interestingly, as you may or may not know, some of our typical Thanksgiving staples couldn’t have been consumed at Plymouth Rock in 1621. No green bean casserole for these folks. They might have had the beans, but no mushroom soup or canned, fried onions.

Kathleen Curtin, former food historian at the Plymouth Plantation, says that while the Pilgrims probably brought sugar with them on the Mayflower, it’s doubtful they had any left by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. More than likely, dried fruits sweetened any dishes. Without sugar, no cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving spread even though cranberries might have been around at the time. No sugar probably meant no pumpkin pie either, even though they may have stewed their pumpkins. Plus, the Pilgrims didn’t have ovens, so they couldn’t have baked a pie if they wanted to – or breads and cakes.

Evidently, the Pilgrims hadn’t put Old Bessie on the Mayflower – a cow, not some eccentric relative – which meant no milk. Curtin says the folks at Plymouth Rock probably did milk goats to make cheese. And the main dish? The historical record indicates two things for sure, venison and wild fowl. Since Plymouth Rock is on the Massachusetts coast, is it possible that the first Thanksgiving feast may have also featured seafood – I like that idea: lobster for Thanksgiving!

As a kid, I always liked Thanksgiving – for good reason: my birthday. Some years, like this year, my birthday falls on that fourth Thursday of November. At the very least, it’s always darned close. One’s 60-something birthdays are thought-provoking occasions for sure; at least they are for me. Factor in the very nature of Thanksgiving, and there’s even more reason to get about the business of counting one’s blessings. Yes, nothing like a birthday, and Thanksgiving, to get one’s philosophical juices flowing.

Naturally, the point is not so much the meal as getting together with friends and family – claiming new ones, if necessary – and doing the grateful math of counting our blessings. Hopefully, your list is full of what you have instead of what you haven’t or what you hopefully can do instead of what you can’t. And your list has a host of family and friends who add sparkle.

It may be that your Thanksgiving is helping others get through theirs. These are the grief-stricken whose losses are too fresh or the financially strapped whose budgets are tight. These are the families with loved ones in the military who worry every day about the safety of those loved ones in such a volatile world. Finally, there are those with impaired health who simply crave to be pain-free for a day.

It’s not that the plight of others should prompt us to be more thankful for our own blessings, but that our own blessings should prompt us to be sympathetic to the plight of others. As the Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “It is another’s fault if he be ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give.”

May this Thanksgiving be as much about giving as it is about thanks.

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