Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Thanksgiving is my favorite Holiday of the year. Giving thanks is a very good habit and can lead to a more fulfilling life. I believe that many of us today should practice the habit of gratitude more often.

Growing up in Germany it comes closest to our “Erntedanktag,” which is mainly a celebration of all the harvested foods of the season. Everybody brings their best fruits and vegetables to the church, and it is there shared with the rest of the community.
Thanksgiving has a similar meaning but also has a deeper, spiritual root.
The Pilgrims came to America because of religious persecution. They had a clear vision that when they arrived here on this continent that their first priority was to worship God in freedom.
We all learned of their ordeal of crossing the ocean and arriving in winter “in the new world.” With the help of the local Indians they survived that first winter. When their first harvest the following fall brought plenty of grains and vegetables, they decided to celebrate.
The year was 1621. Although they did have a three-day feast in celebration of the good harvest, and the local Indians participated, the first Thanksgiving was not a holiday yet, simply a gathering.
Not until President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, Thanksgiving was declared a holiday at the end of November.
Here is an interesting perspective of the first colony's pursuit of liberty and the delegation of responsibilities of their inhabitants.

Today, the most popular food for the big meal is a turkey. Turkeys are raised all year around, but the Thanksgiving Day, almost 80% of the population is preparing the bird. The smaller turkeys up to 15 pound are mostly hens (the female), while the larger birds are the tom (male). They are exclusively used for deli purposes.

Did you know that the average Israeli eats more than 34 pounds of turkey each year, about two times more than the average person in the United States? Turkey was introduced to Israel about 50 years ago, and became popular because it is kosher (unlike pork) and less expensive than beef or lamb.
Here are some other interesting facts about turkey meat which I found in a health newsletter:
It's Fun to Know: Dark Meat or White Meat?
It's the perennial turkey carver's question: "Would you like dark meat or white meat?"
The reason for the difference in color and taste? The muscles in the legs and thighs of the turkey are more active, which means they need more oxygen. This, in turn, means those parts have more blood vessels and more myoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein. Myoglobin also carries a pigment that darkens the meat.
Breast muscles, used for flying by most birds, are rarely used by turkeys. (At least not by the specially bred for size, flightless, waddling wonders that end up on our tables.) As a result, less myoglobin - and fewer blood vessels and darkening pigment - is present.
(Source: Library of Congress)

One cannot think of Thanksgiving without including the pumpkin. Event hough, you may not like pumpkin pie or pumpkins in general, pumpkins are part of the holiday fare. While we use the big pumpkins for lanterns and carving at Halloween, the smaller pumpkins are cooked and pureed. Did you know that Morton, Illinois is considered the pumpkin Capital of the world? Most of the pumpkins consumed by Americans are grown around Peoria, in central Illinois. That's where the Libby company is located.

Besides the pretty orange color, pumpkins have quite a nutritional value, too. They contain important anti-oxidants, in form of beta-carotene.

And there is the CORNUCOPIA, korn-yoo-KO-pee-uh:

One of the most recognizable symbols of Thanksgiving is the cornucopia, also called horn of plenty. It is a decorative motif, originating in ancient Greece, that symbolizes abundance. The original cornucopia was a curved goat's horn filled to overflowing with fruit and grain. It symbolizes the horn possessed by Zeus's nurse, the Greek nymph Amalthaea, which could be filled with whatever the owner wished.
I hope you enjoyed this Thanksgiving journey.
Please follow the links, to learn more about each symbol of this important holiday.
I like to conclude with a quote by President Ronald Reagan (Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1986):

"Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Rooted deeply in our Judeo-Christian heritage, the practice of offering thanksgiving underscores our unshakable belief in God as the foundation of our Nation and our firm reliance upon Him from Whom all blessings flow."
Americans are strong because of their faith and their tradition to honor God.

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