FRANKFORT

This week, family and friends will sit down at the dinner table as they have for generations to enjoy what is one of the oldest American-based traditions.

As even our youngest students can tell us, the most famous of these Thanksgiving feasts took place nearly 400 years ago, when the Pilgrims and a group of Native Americans spent three days celebrating a successful harvest season in 1621.

This is not believed to be the first meal of its kind on our soil, however. Historians say a group of Spanish explorers had a day of Thanksgiving in what is now Texas in the 1500s, while another group of settlers shared a similar meal in present-day Maine in the early 1600s.

One thing we know for certain is the date that the entire country first celebrated the holiday: Nov. 26, 1789, which President Washington decreed should be a "Day of Publick Thanksgivin."

While that went a long way to roughly establishing the holiday's place on the calendar, not everyone agreed right away. In fact, it took decades before a consensus was reached -- there was a time in the 1800s when Kentuckians celebrated it in September, for example -- but President Lincoln settled the debate by saying Thanksgiving should be on the last Thursday of November.

Congress clarified that in the 1940s by moving it to the fourth Thursday, so there wouldn't be shorter holiday season during those years where November has five Thursdays, and that's where it's been ever since.

As we sit down this week and give thanks, we must not forget the farmers who made the meal possible.

An annual survey by American Farm Bureau shows the meal has actually gotten cheaper over the last several decades. It now costs less than $50 to feed a family of 10, but when adjusted for inflation, that's about 20% below the cost when the survey was first compiled in the 1980s.

Speaking of holiday meals, nearly all of Kentucky State Parks' resorts will be open on Thursday for those who would rather eat out than at home. Kenlake is the only exception, and Buckhorn Lake will have a limited menu.

The doors open at noon, and the cost is $19.99 for adults and $9.99 for children six to 12. Those five and under eat for free.

Many Americans will be spending at least part of the holiday on the road. AAA estimates that more than 55 million will be traveling 50 miles or more, which would be the second-busiest Thanksgiving for travel since the statistic was first compiled in 2000.

It's important to remember that Thanksgiving is not a day off for everyone, so we should also be thankful for those first responders; hospital and nursing home staffs; utility workers; and retail and restaurant employees who are there working on our behalf. We should also be grateful for those volunteers and others who make sure no one goes hungry.

As we enjoy this week, my family and I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving and the best holiday season yet. Be careful, too, if you're among the 55 million people traveling this holiday.

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