Well Thanksgiving is upon us again and soon we'll be dozing in the tryptophan induced torpor that makes the compulsory family reunion tolerable. I will be spending Thanksgiving alone with the dog. Due to an inconveniently timed snowfall my children's last every-other-weekend visit with their mother was cancelled. So I said what the heck, take […]

Well Thanksgiving is upon us again and soon we'll be dozing in the tryptophan induced torpor that makes the compulsory family reunion tolerable.

I will be spending Thanksgiving alone with the dog. Due to an inconveniently timed snowfall my children's last every-other-weekend visit with their mother was cancelled. So I said what the heck, take Thanksgiving this year.

Hey, that means I don't have to cook! I've already got something to be thankful for.

If spending Thanksgiving alone with a dog and eating dinner at a restaurant with a Thanksgiving special served by people working on the holiday sounds glum, I assure you it sounds loads better than what friends have been dreading. Spending a day split between various groups of relatives, few of whom they like.

But they have something to be thankful for too. They only have to do this once or twice a year.

But seriously, why do we have this yearly ritual of finding things to be thankful for? Isn't that something we should do more often?

To the best of our knowledge all agricultural peoples have some kind of harvest festival. One reason would be to relax and blow off steam after an intense period of hard work.

Another would come after looking at the harvest and thinking, 'That's probably enough so we won't die before next harvest.'

Think of that for a moment. Every day I pass vast areas of land planted with food crops. Right now the ground is bare after harvest and much of it is stored in grain elevators nearby.

But what would happen if that harvest failed? What if every farmer in the area had to make the grim seed calculation; so much to feed my family, so much for animal feed, and enough to plant next year?

For me, nothing. Food comes from the supermarket in town. I do grow some of my own but it's a hobby, not something my life depends on. And I don't do canning because frankly, it's too much work.

For the Pilgrims at Plymouth colony in 1621 it was a different story. They had come to a land which looked like a howling wilderness compared to England's green meadows and the rich polder land of the Low Countries.

Worse, they found evidence of recent disaster. Deserted Indian villages with a few starving survivors of a plague, now known to have been the effect of European diseases but which must have looked to them like the work of the Devil.

One of those survivors was the Indian we know as Squanto, who had actually lived in England and spoke English. His knowledge of agriculture suited to the New England climate was to be essential for their survival.

Half the colony died of starvation and disease the first winter.

At that they were lucky. Their original destination was closer to the Jamestown colony in Virginia, where 90 percent of the colonists died during 'The Starving Time.'

Which is why proud Virginians (if that's not a redundancy) claim they celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the New World.

George Washington later declared a day of thanksgiving during the darkest time of the Revolution, when the success of America's cause looked very doubtful.

During the Civil War Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving. The celebration by presidential proclamation has been an annual tradition since 1863, but only became an official federal holiday in 1941. Again, they were giving thanks during dark times.

So while good times last, let us be thankful. It was not always so, and yet during darker times they still found reason to give thanks.