by Kyle Leahy Walsh

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Families and friends will try to gather together for a wonderful feast and celebration. It’s a time for thankfulness! Thanks ~ where did that word come from? I hadn’t really thought about that before. Believe it or not, in English, “thank you” is derived from the word “think”. The Old English word thancas, (the plural of thanc ‘) meant a kindly thought, or gratitude. It’s also related to the Dutch word dank, and the German word Dank. It used to literally mean “I will remember what you did for me”!

This holiday always falls on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S. (it falls the second Monday in October in Canada). It is celebrated as a legal holiday for people in America to be thankful for what they have. Thanksgiving celebrations date back to the first European settlements in America. It was a joint celebration of the harvest of 1621 with the Wampanoag Indians. Their feast probably wasn’t turkey, but more likely goose, codfish and lobsters. It was continued by the governors of each colony and the Puritans adopted a religious aspect to the day.

The Continental Congress declared a day of “thanksgiving” in 1777 for the 13 colonies as a way to celebrate their victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1863, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, that Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as our national holiday for “Thanksgiving”. It was a determined magazine editor, Sarah Josefa Hale, who went on a letter writing campaign to political leaders to have a specific day designated for a national thanksgiving celebration to help unite a country that was heading towards a civil war.

By the 1900’s, Thanksgiving was a much appreciated break for the 6 day work week. The NFL was formed in 1920 as the “American Professional Football Association” (APFA) with 11 clubs (there were 14 by the end of the 1st season). The NFL name was adopted in 1922. In an effort to boost attendance at their games, the Detroit Lions held the 1st ever broadcasted Thanksgiving Day football match with the Chicago Bears in 1934 (dah Bears won). Currently, there are 3 NFL football games played every Thanksgiving and the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys always play in 2 of them.

Parades also became a Thanksgiving Day tradition and probably the most famous one is the New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Businesses in the United States really prospered during the Roaring Twenties, and Macy’s was no exception. In 1924, in order to showcase the opening of the “World’s Largest Store” and its 1 million square feet of retail space, Macy’s decided to give the people of NYC a parade on Thanksgiving morning. It was called the “Christmas Parade” and Macy’s hoped it would excite people for the upcoming holiday shopping season. It stops at their Herald Square store where Santa unveils their spectacular animated window displays which are really amazing.

Jacksonville doesn’t have a Thanksgiving Parade, but it does have the awesome tradition of the “Jacksonville Light Boat” parade. This year will make the 31st time that boats of many shapes and sizes will be decorated with beautiful lights and travel the St. Johns River, ending with a truly spectacular fireworks display. This year’s “Community First Jacksonville Light” parade will take place on Saturday, Nov. 28 starting at 7 p.m. and will end with the fireworks display. You can watch the show from both sides of the St. Johns River and it’s a good idea to bring chairs and blankets to watch in comfort. There are places such as Friendship Fountain Park on the South bank as well as The Jacksonville Landing and along the riverfront on the North bank that are considered premier viewing. This event has vendors at several locations that will be offering food, drink and merchandise for purchase.

In addition to food, family, friends, football and fun, Thanksgiving is also a time of gratitude and reflection. Any of us, at any time, could find our may selves in a position of needing help. All it takes is one unexpected life impacting event to put anyone in a difficult situation. There are people in need in our community on any given day, but helping in any way you can during the holidays will really help to ease the difficulties of people in our community.

On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, starting at 10 a.m. the FSCJ Foundation will host a program called “#GivingTuesday”. They will be planting 200 donated trees on their various campuses, with a ceremonial planting at the Downtown campus. Also on that day, FSCJ will be collecting donated goods for local nonprofits and charities on the First Coast. The collection times are from 6:30 a.m. to 12 noon. If you go to the link below you can see what type of clothing and nonperishable items have been designated for each campus.

As the Folio Weekly noted in an article from November 13th, 2015, “With all the money spent around the holidays, it’s important to remember the most worthwhile expenditure of all: paying it forward.” The Folio link below will take you to a list of charitable events, volunteer opportunities and services for those of all ages in our community who are in need during this holiday season. Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!