Family and Gratitude: Thanksgiving 1621 to present day

Since 1621 (or prior-depending on what you believe), the collective “we” have celebrated Thanksgiving in various ways and at various times. However, the true meaning of Thanksgiving has always been to give thanks. We gave thanks for different things depending on the era. In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as “a day of  thanksgiving and prayer.” Check out this website for a detailed history of Thanksgiving:   President Lincoln did this after much campaigning and nudging by author Sarah Josepha Hale. Sarah wrote letters to politicians for 40 years trying to make Thanksgiving an official holiday. While Lincoln made this proclamation to foster unity between the Northern and Southern State, I am certain Sarah played a role in making this happen. In the spirit of a high level timeline, I should mention that since 1941, Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States every fourth Thursday in November… or should I say, Thanksgiving is celebrated the day before Black Friday:) More on that later.


In a previous blog, “Never Underestimate Your Power To Make A Difference:The Power of One” I shared my experience and observation of how ONE person can and does make a difference. Sarah was certainly one such person! Amid many wars and other disasters over the centuries, in general, families defended each other,  stayed together and remained steadfast members that could be relied on in a moments’ notice. I certainly believe there are countless families who carry these values and beliefs today. My family falls into this category. We would do anything for each other. you are new to my newsletter, I have written several blogs about how our family has been tested in recent years and how unconditional love, trust, faith, support, compassion and patience prevailed. I shake my head in disbelief when I see or hear about families allowing mistakes, arguments or ‘who knows what’ to tear each other apart. To be clear, there are some categories or actions that are show stoppers, so to speak. Aside from the unthinkable, there is little in my mind that should tear families apart.  What arguments cause so much strife that families never talk to each other for years, decades or for the rest of their lives?  So what if someone broke a cherished item? So what if so and so took an item from a loved one’s estate that was bequeathed to you?  So what if someone has different political views? So what if your son or daughter married someone you don’t approve of? So what if your mother, father, sister or brother married someone you don’t approve of? So what if your sons or daughters aren’t raising their kids the way you think they ought to be raised?


Everyone deserves to be treated with mutual respect. Everyone deserves to surround themselves with those that lift them up and treat them as they should be treated. If there are such issues, talk it out, have a mediator, get counseling, and/or all of the above. There are countless TV talk shows with families torn apart over seemingly small things. There are even families who won’t talk to each other and don’t even remember why they are mad! If one of you died tonight, would any of this matter?


I know someone who had over $1,000 cash stolen from their home a few years back. The accuser thought their sister stole the money. After a few yelling matches, they vowed to ‘never’ talk to each other again. What’s worse is their father sided with the accuser and never talked to his daughter again either. When their father died, suddenly all the negative emotions simply fell away. It took their father’s death to bring them together again. Today, they are closer than ever and they have a bond that will last the rest of their lives. So, at the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was love, forgiveness, support, compassion, and FAMILY.


As Thanksgiving approaches, I am holding my loved ones especially tight. Indeed, it is a season of giving thanks. Last Thanksgiving was the last one we celebrated with my parents before they died this year.  Several years ago, our family decided we didn’t want to cook. With everything else going on, cooking wasn’t high on our list of ways to expend energy. We opted to go to a nice restaurant in downtown Phoenix and enjoy good food and each other. As we left, someone took a fun family picture for us. The food wasn’t that great and we decided we wouldn’t do that again. However, the fun, spur of the moment family picture we have as a result was worth the experience. The funny, smiling and laughing family you see in this blog is one of our pictures. This Thanksgiving is our first without my parents since they moved back to AZ in 2000. I know I will always treasure our “outing” together and our picture will always remain in my heart, in print and on multiple computer back ups!


Speaking of food..Check out the latest Thanksgiving feast trends at Here, you’ll find recipe ideas from appetizers, main dishes and sides to yummy desserts. I am certain you will find something for everyone in your family. Enjoy these food ideas. You may even find a family tradition waiting for you!


Most importantly, this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to :


1. Enjoy and be present with family. Set differences aside and, if possible, bring everyone together. Your children will thank you for it…even if they don’t know it yet! Find something, such as card or boardgames, to do together that doesn’t involve TV, phone, Ipad, MP3 and other electronics:-)


2. Stick with family traditions and/or create new ones. Family traditions are a terrific way to build your families’ legacy for decades, and perhaps, centuries. My warm-hearted Aunt Mary Ellen shared a beautiful recipe with me this year from my great grandmother. This is one example of sharing traditions that honor and remember family and her sharing this with me brought tears to my eyes. In my family, we have a few traditions I’ll share. First, we make homemade cinnamon rolls from my mother’s recipe. The smell and taste of these rolls is something everyone looks forward to on Thanksgiving (and Christmas) morning. Second, before diving in and enjoying our feast, we say grace and everyone goes around the table to share what we are thankful for.


3. Find ways to give to the less fortunate. If you have children in your household, I believe involving kids in being of service promotes gratitude. Serving the homeless or sponsoring a family are good choices. Having kids help shop for food and donating it personally to one of many food banks is another way of making a difference.


4. Involve kids in preparing food and/or setting the table. This promotes responsibility and fosters learning…and your family legacy.


However you spend this Thanksgiving, may you be surrounded by love, peace, joy, great food, fantastic memories and perfect health!


Cheers to all the above and more,





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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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