Giving Thanks in Minnesota

Wiger Portrait“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving,” –H.U. Westermayer

In the coming days, many of us will be lucky enough to have time off of work to spend quality time with our families and friends. As H.U. Westermayer reminds us, even when the Pilgrims lost much, they took time to give thanks for their new land, their new friends and the bounty they received from their first plantings.

Sometimes we take for granted the things we should be most grateful for. This year I am thankful for my family, my health, and for the wonderful gift of helping my constituents throughout the year.

We all are familiar with the ‘First Thanksgiving’ celebrated by the Pilgrims after their inaugural harvest in the New World in 1621, but it wasn’t until 1863 that it became a Federal holiday. Minnesota, however, first started officially celebrating this day of thanks in 1860 when then-Governor Alexander Ramsey made his Gubernatorial proclamation. Part of the proclamation read,

“The falling leaves of Autumn find our garners full of wheat. Warehouses are crowded and steamers groan with the varied products of the harvest. In every section of the State during the past summer, the sentiment of the Psalmist was applicable, the pastures were clothed with flocks, the valleys also stood so thick with grain that they shouted for job, and sang.”

One hundred and fifty-four years later, the Governor’s words of thanks for a full harvest and healthy economy still ring true. Minnesota’s unemployment rate has fallen to just 4.1 percent, and just last week Forbes magazine rated us the ninth best state for business. And just as our warehouses were brimming with wheat in the mid-19th Century, the 21st Century harvests have proven equally, if not more, fruitful. Our northern state is one filled with hard-working families — a proud people who like to celebrate our heritage. O n Thanksgiving, we come together to celebrate and show gratitude for what we have been given.

But the U.S. is not the only country to celebrate our blessings. In fact, dozens of countries across the globe come together to give thanks for a huge fruitful harvest. For example, in China people celebrate the August Moon Festival, believing that the moon is roundest and brightest on this day. Friends and family give one another moon cake to celebrate. The Brazilians, Koreans, and Indians also have their own unique day of Thanksgiving complete with their own set of customs and rituals.

Unfortunately, not all Americans will be able to come home for dinner on Thursday. There are a myriad of professions in this day and age that require 24-7 attention; doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, military men and women and more recently those who work in the retail profession are kept away from loved ones in order to serve. There are also many in our communities who may not have a family to visit or host, or perhaps no home at all.

Luckily, there are many ways to help out our less fortunate neighbors. Below I have listed ways for you and your family to show a little gratitude and kindness this Thanksgiving.

• The Salvation Army requires a brigade of volunteers during the holiday season that includes anything from meal servers at homeless shelters to bell ringers.
• Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly makes sure the elderly in Minnesota communities aren’t lonely. Visiting volunteers can help relieve isolation and reconnect the elderly to people within their communities.
• People Serving People is an organization that helps families find their way home. Volunteers are needed to provide vital services and holiday helpers are in particularly high demand.
• Open Arms of Minnesota is the only nonprofit organization in the state that cooks and delivers free meals tailored to meet the needs of those living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, MS and ALS. This hardworking team of donors and volunteers needs extra help during the holidays:

I’m proud to represent the people of District 43 – the communities of Maplewood, Oakdale, North St. Paul, White Bear Lake, Mahtomedi, Birchwood and Willernie. I wish everyone in all communities a wonderful, safe and happy Thanksgiving.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16. I can be reached by email at and by phone at 651-296-6820.

Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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