Thanksgiving is Hard Work…

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And we don’t work hard anymore

By J. Jeff Toler for Shenandoah Christian Alliance

“Yes, there is a “secret to happiness”—and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.” (Dennis Prager, Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual)

Thanksgiving this year will, in most ways, be like most any in the past—the usual planning the dinner; where the family will gather; who’s going to bring the vegetable dish; you’re not inviting crazy uncle Buddy are you? …and well, you get the idea.

There will be the usual TV going in the background with the game on—likely Green Bay and Detroit—under all the chatter about how crazy it’s going to get on Black Friday. If I haven’t described the typical Thanksgiving Day in America, I’m sure I came pretty close, because this is how it’s been for years, and years, and years.

As always, turkeys figure big in this tradition. An estimated 46 million turkeys are eaten each year as part of the Thanksgiving meal, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s about 21% of the roughly 216.5 million turkeys produced in the U.S. each year. (From

As part of the traditions of the turkey, the myth about Benjamin Franklin proffering the turkey as America’s national bird is just that—a myth. Franklin, writing to one of his four daughters, criticized the original eagle design for the Great Seal, saying that it looked more like a turkey. In his letter, Franklin wrote that the “[The] Bald Eagle… is a bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly… [he] is too lazy to fish for himself.” I wonder what he would think if he knew we eat so many turkeys on Thanksgiving. Better, I suppose, than eating Bald Eagles each year.

It’s about tradition. But such traditions as this, like so many others in the America of today, bear little resemblance to the attitudes and values that engendered them. 

Thanksgiving has traditionally been traced to a 1621 meal between the Pilgrims and Native Americans, but its origins as a national holiday are more recent than that.

On Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving. He needed little persuasion to find a way to provide spiritual and emotional relief from the horrors and privations of the Civil War then raging in full force.

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But just as likely, Lincoln succumbed to no small amount of pressure, following a 36-year crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday led by Sarah Josepha Hale. She envisioned a day filled with roast turkey, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes. In a September 28, 1863 letter to Lincoln, she pointed out that he could continue the tradition set by George Washington, who declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1789 on the last Thursday of November. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who declared the official day as the fourth Thursday in November.

The question is, does anyone still keep the day relevant by actually being thankful? A better question might be this: can anyone really be thankful without being grateful?

Gratitude is hanging by a thread, and can you blame people? In fact, Thanksgiving in 2023 will not be like so many others in the past. It has already been spoiled—tainted by a problem that’s confronting the American people, and won’t just go away easily. We are becoming increasingly anxious. Worse yet, anxiety is affecting young people more than older adults. The Kaiser Family Foundation, who claim they are an independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism, finds that, “Many young adults have come of age in an era of pandemic-related school closures, remote work and job and income loss, all of which may contribute to poor mental health. Additionally, young adults in college settings may encounter increased difficulty accessing treatment.” 

Anxiety recovery though, is unlikely to be accomplished by medical health policies, but instead by overcoming our maladaptive behaviors—behaviors we acquire over time through unrealistic or unmet expectations. After we experienced the COVID trauma, most people realized what they expected from life was not what they were getting. Young people, more than most, can no longer expect to feel safe and secure, or find any value and purpose for their lives. More importantly, they’ve become confused from the loss of trust they were sensing.

  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

Why would we think such a situation would engender anything like gratitude, much less thankfulness? It’s ironic to think the vast majority of people who survived this experience could be grateful when considering the evidence of obvious mismanagement by medical, pharmaceutical, and civic authorities. Ten years ago, most people were more grateful for such institutions.

At some point, we would hope that more and more of us would look beyond what the authorities are offering, if they hadn’t broken our trust. Because if we did, we might find that the erosion of gratitude is commensurate with the increase in government programs and subsidies. Here is where expectations and gratitude collide.

From a 2022 report by the New York Post, families earning half a million dollars a year can receive Obamacare subsidies. Few realize that in some states, unemployment insurance benefits can be equivalent to a job with annual pay of $100,000.

The workforce in America is still nowhere near where it was pre-COVID, and certain employers—like retailers and other entry level employers have settled into a “new normal” by operating with shorter hours and relying on self-serve alternatives. The problem is this: fewer people are working, and those people that are, are either working harder, or displaying little concern for their job performance. One casualty among many, of substituting opportunity with entitlement, is a disappearing work ethic.

While we are weary of all the provocations coming at us from every direction, the toughest is the challenge of remaining hopeful and confident in a world truly turned upside down. Of all who deserve our thanks today, it’s God alone who deserves the most.

  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16–17)

To all of the friends and families of Shenandoah Christian Alliance, may your Thanksgiving holiday be a feast filled with an abundance of peace and gratitude.

Photo by Greg Lippert on Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.