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Editorial: Thursday is a day for all to be thankful

America's celebration of Thanksgiving arrives Thursday. It is a holiday of many meanings and also marks the "official" start of the Christmas season.

Most Americans assumed that the first thanksgiving occurred in 1621. The Pilgrims had much to be thankful for following their arrival in 1620. They had traveled for 66 days on a tough voyage, signed the Mayflower Compact and started a settlement at Plymouth. They survived a long and tough winter and, with the help of American Indians -- the Wampanoags, planted and harvested their first crops the following year. The Pilgrims had survived and found reason to celebrate their harvest.

Historically, the American Indians had celebrated their fall harvest for several thousands of years, prior to European colonization. The Pilgrims were aided by the helpfulness of the Wampanoags, who showed the Europeans how to survive. Unfortunately, the Pilgrim Puritans and later American generations did not repay American Indians in kind.

There are many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Without the help of Squanto, a Native American, the Pilgrims' settlement may have been doomed to failure. Today, American Indians and many immigrants to America have learned to live in peace together. We should remember the valuable contributions to our country by both the American Indians and the Pilgrims.

Since 1863, America celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. In 1941, Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day to encourage earlier shopping. It has now become part of our historical memory, just as turkey is part of Thanksgiving.

Turkey is really a proud name. The turkey was Ben Franklin's choice for our national bird. A number of places in the United States are called Turkey, such as Turkey, Texas, and Turkey, N.C. There are even 16 townships around the country named "Turkey," including three in Kansas.

The traditional Thanksgiving turkey has been good to Willmar and Minnesota. Our state is really the land of 44.5 million turkeys, the top turkey-producing state in the nation. Through the insight of Earl B. Olson in 1940, Jennie-O Foods was founded and grew into Jennie-O Turkey Store, the largest turkey product producer in the world.

There are many things to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving. Take time to identify those things in your life and remember them.