20 Favorite Thanksgiving Quotes

At its heart, Thanksgiving is just about the simplest holiday we celebrate. No gifts are expected; there's no tree to chop down. We don't even have to think too hard about the food we'll eat – the traditional menu has been planned for us for generations. All we're expected to do is sit down with friends and family, eat a whole lot – and say thank you. It's very basic, but also very profound.

Thanksgiving is such a touchstone in our culture that it has inspired many notable people to reflect on its meaning. From the deep to the humbling to the simply funny, here are 20 of our favorite quotes about Thanksgiving.

“Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.” Ronald Reagan

“Thanksgiving is the holiday that encompasses all others. All of them, from Martin Luther King Day to Arbor Day to Christmas to Valentine's Day, are in one way or another about being thankful.” –Jonathan Safran Foer

“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.” –Robert Caspar Lintner

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” Theodore Roosevelt

“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” –Cicero

“Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.” Johnny Carson

“Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.” William Shakespeare

“Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence.”Erma Bombeck

“We're having something a little different this year for Thanksgiving. Instead of a turkey, we're having a swan. You get more stuffing.” George Carlin

“My cooking is so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.” Phyllis Diller

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.”–W. Clement Stone

“An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.”–Irv Kupcinet

“Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live.” –Jacqueline Winspear

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” –Gerald Good

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. . . . O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” –Henry David Thoreau

“I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.” Anne Frank

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” –W.T. Purkiser

“There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.” –O. Henry

“This year, let us especially seek to rekindle in our respective hearts and minds the spirit of our first settlers who valued freedom above all else, and who found much for which to be thankful when material comforts were meager. We are, indeed, a most fortunate people.” Richard Nixon

“Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else's fairy tale.”–Wale Ayeni

“If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get.”–Frank A. Clark


Originally published November 2013