An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Nov. 28, 2006

Celebrate the joy of Thanksgiving, tradition

By Chaplain (Capt.) Terri Gast 1st Fighter Wing Chaplain

Do you remember the joy of fall in elementary school? First came Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and of course, Christmas and Hanukkah. The classroom was filled with drawings, decorations, and crafts according to the holiday. For most children it is a time of excitement and anticipation.

It's possible that you may not have thought much about the historical meaning of Thanksgiving since elementary school, unless you're a parent.

According to Encarta Encyclopedia, Thanksgiving was first celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans in colonial New England in the early 17th century. It is believed that the colonists drew on the tradition of harvest festivals celebrated in many parts of the world since ancient times.

Thanksgiving also has roots in the Puritan custom of designating special days of thanksgiving to express gratitude for God's blessings.

After the Civil War, Congress established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. In the 19th century Thanksgiving's emphasis on home and family appealed to many people across the United States. Thanksgiving was also considered an introduction to American values for millions of immigrants. Over time, Thanksgiving became ingrained in American culture.

As we approach another Thanksgiving Day in the history of our nation, think for a moment about the joy you may have felt in elementary school every fall during the holiday season.

There was joy in learning and in discovering new things. There was joy in being with family and friends. There was joy in creativity. Did you ever make a turkey with colored paper and pipe cleaners? Do you remember tracing your hand to make turkey feathers?

There was simple joy as a child in learning about faith, culture, traditions and our American history. There was also joy in helping make Thanksgiving dinner, in smelling the wonderful aromas and in decorating.

If you're a parent you probably remember those feelings through the wonder you see in your child's eyes.

For those who may not have the privilege of occasionally getting a glimpse of life through the eyes of youthful innocence, reflect on that distant time in your own life.

You may find that you re-discover, if only for a moment, that all that joy and wonder are still there.

Thanksgiving Day is a time when we are reminded to step out of our ever-increasing hectic American lifestyle and reflect on all that is good in our lives.

Time may have passed. The faces and scenery of our lives may be vastly different from childhood. But what made the holiday season so exciting in childhood has not changed. In America we have freedom -- freedom of religion, freedom of choice, and freedom to learn, discover and reach our highest potential. We are blessed with material abundance, and with family and friends.

As Airmen in the world's most powerful Air Force, we have the privilege of helping to preserve our American heritage. May you experience the Thanksgiving tradition with a renewed sense of joy, for we have much to be thankful for.