Jackie Gingrich Cushman

His proclamation, made during the Civil War, acknowledged “The gracious gifts of the Most High God” and noted that it “seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” Lincoln invited his fellow citizens to set apart and observe “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a national holiday since Lincoln’s proclamation. While this established a single Thanksgiving Day for our nation, the date on which Thanksgiving Day fell continued to change.

In 1939, in an effort to lengthen the Christmas selling season, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week -- to the next to last Thursday of November. This created much confusion regarding which Thursday was the correct day for Thanksgiving. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed legislation making Thanksgiving the 4th Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday, where the emphasis is on fellowship and time rather than gifts, glitz and fancy cocktail parties. The holiday’s one constant is time to sit down and eat together. While this might appear to be simplistic and unimportant to some, there is great value in family’s gatherings for meals.

A 2006 study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University titled: The Importance of Family Dinners III, notes the importance of family mealtimes in creating the foundation for a healthy family.

The study notes that children who eat dinner with their families five or more times a week are less than half as likely to get drunk once a month (7 percent versus 18 percent ) and almost half as likely to smoke daily (12 percent versus 23 percent) as those who had fewer than three family dinners per week.

According to the study, kids who frequently eat dinner with their families are also likelier to have better grades and confide in their parents, noting that 58 percent of teens report that they have dinner with their families five or more times per week.

Based on this study, it appears as though families with children should continue to eat together throughout the year to help ensure that next year they will have much for which to be thankful.

That same positive impact of coming together to break bread may hold true for the nation too. Coming together to break bread and share time may overcome miscommunication, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. If so, let us gather together, be thankful and, as Lincoln wrote in his proclamation, “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.