Regardless of menu choices, giving thanks for our blessings is a centuries-old tradition in America. The observance has its roots in the Pilgrims’ tradition in New England, but actually goes back many years earlier.

General George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation during the Revolutionary War, and he followed that up as President of the United States. He proclaimed the first national thanksgiving, setting aside November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

Many of us will enjoy turkey on Thursday. Others will have ham, or Southern Fried Chicken, tacos … the menu is as varied as America.

The common thread is being thankful for our blessings.

Many families will gather on Thursday to enjoy the meal together and to acknowledge God’s bounty. Church and civic groups in many places are providing free Thanksgiving meals for those who are needy or away from home or who have to work on the holiday.

Even as we gather to give thanks, it’s a good idea to find ways to share our blessings with others.

In coastal South Carolina we know the challenges of dealing with hurricanes and flooding, as many of our friends and family — and strangers — are having to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast.

Open your hearts and your wallets to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse or your church’s own helping organization.

And remember too that those in need could use some help throughout the year.