NOTE: Due to holiday deadlines, The Neosho Daily News did not have School Zone this week nor did we receive the Superintendent's weekly column in time to appear in the newspaper. It's presented this week as an online extra!

This week we celebrate a tradition that appears to be about 400 years old. According to the History Channel website, the first Thanksgiving was in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. New York was the first state to adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday in 1817. It became an American holiday when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863 during the Civil War.

It is interesting that Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, spent 36 years trying to get Thanksgiving as a national holiday. When Lincoln agreed to make it a holiday at the height of the Civil War he asked God to “heal the wounds of the nation” in his proclamation. I believe this would be an appropriate appeal this Thanksgiving.

So how about traditions?! According to the National Turkey Federation, nearly 90 percent of Americans will consume turkey on Thanksgiving. For our family, we have the traditional turkey, sometimes a fried turkey, turkey and noodles, and turkey in the dressing. A quick survey of websites seems to indicate we are also pretty traditional at our house with the sides; mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie.

TV is also a part of our Thanksgiving. While we are preparing the food, the TV is tuned to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade from New York. The History Channel reports that the event has been presented annually since 1924. The parade travels along a 2.5 mile route in front of 2-3 million spectators. The afternoon is filled with football games on TV. When the Dallas Cowboys are bad, it is often just background noise for sleeping. However, this year’s game might be worth watching. After the first round of leftovers, we usually settle in for some pinochle and times of laughter and reminiscing.

Shopping. According to Wikipedia (I’ll let you determine the merits of this source), the day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season since 1932. Dating back to around 1961, the term Black Friday was used in Philadelphia to describe “the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic.” As the term became more widespread it was considered to mean that Black Friday was the day that retailers went from being in-the-red to being profitable. It seems crazy to me that 6:00 am (which was the opening time on Black Friday for many years) was not early enough for retailers. The time kept getting earlier and earlier until it reached midnight. Now it is not uncommon for stores to open on Thanksgiving evening. To me, this is a shame.  Folks should be allowed to spend Thanksgiving with their family.

This year will be the first with our granddaughter. I look forward to teaching her the meaning of Thanksgiving. We have much for which to be thankful! Regardless what your Thanksgiving-break traditions are, I hope it is timed filled with the joy of family and gratitude for the blessings we each have. Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

-Dr. Jim Cummins is the Neosho Superintendent of Schools and writes a weekly column for The Neosho Daily News.