It’s November 2021 Time To Give Thanks!

Dia de los Muertos carnival or Day of The Dead parade.

Our nation gives a collective “thanks” on the fourth Thursday of every November – Thanksgiving. That’s special. But here in Fort Bend County, we know that one day each year to give thanks is not enough. Our feelings come from being the most diverse, most prosperous county in Texas, America and the world. Here are a few ideas in November for you, your family and your friends to give thanks for living in Fort Bend.

It all starts on November 1st – Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead! This is not a day of zombies in full attack mode or psycho killers wearing hockey masks or vampires looking for blood. It is a day to be thankful for the gift of life and family. It originated in Mexico and has become a global phenomenon.  Dia de los Muertos celebrates the Heavenly gift of life by remembering loved ones whose souls actually come back from Heaven to celebrate.

Families often visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of the departed with ofrendas (altars) of marigolds (cempasuchil). There are shared family meals and many stories about the honored souls whose spirits have returned.  Some family members pay tribute by wearing a brightly colored “calavera” – a skeleton’s mask. To see the love of life from celebrants of Dia de los Muertos, drop by the San Gabriel Cemetery in Richmond or the Cementario San Isidro in Sugar Creek.  Always be respectfully while you enjoy the holiday and give thanks for life. Dia de los Muertos is Fort Bend Strong!

Looking for something to celebrate and give thanks November 4th through November 9th? How about a Festival of Lights? Diwali!

Diwali was originally started by Hindus in India giving thanks for the victory of light over darkness. Just like non-Christians being thankful during Christmas, many non-Hindus worldwide now observe Diwali. There is constant feasting during Diwali’s five days, with lots of sweet desserts like “kaju katli” or “besan burfi” or “jalebi.” Yum, yum, yum!

Pete Olson exchanging Diwali greetings with Swami (Hindu monk) at BAPS Temple in Stafford.

A visit to the stunning BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Stafford is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of Diwali.  Step into this Indian marble and Turkish limestone temple, like I have many times, and you’ll soon find out that this huge house of worship is only held together by gravity – no nails, screws or glue.  Each stone is cut by hand to fit one other specific stone. Three thousand craftsmen put a 33,000 piece jigsaw puzzle together. It took only 28 months to build. You’ll be thankful to enjoy the peace and calmness of the BAPS Temple during Diwali or any other time.  Diwali is Fort Bend Strong!

Two days after Diwali ends, on November 11th of every year, there’s a special day of honor and gratitude for every Sailor, Marine, Soldier, Airman, Coastguardsman and Merchant Mariner who had ever served in our military:  Veterans Day. It started out as Armistice Day for the day World War I ended. The treaty that ended the war went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Armistice Day was officially renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

A young boy in west Fort Bend thanking the National Guard for helping in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey.

Veterans like me are extremely proud of the gratitude and thanks we receive on Veterans Day.  We know you are thanking our families for their sacrifices as well! If you have a chance, drop by a local VFW, American Legion, VA facility or Disabled Veteran lodge. Buy a beer, play some bingo and listen to the stories, especially the stories of combat, and accept our thanks for your kindness.  Our veterans and their families are Fort Bend Strong!

Thanksgiving in 2021 falls on November 25th. We all know the story of Thanksgiving in America.  People living in Holland, the Pilgrims, left seeking religious freedom. Their first boat barely made it to Southampton, England. Another boat, the Mayflower, was the backup. The Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower and set sail west. Five months later, as winter loomed, they landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Half of the Pilgrims died before spring.  In the fall of 1621, they had their first successful corn crop. To thank God for their lives and prosperity, the Pilgrims had the first Thanksgiving ever.

Robert Walter Weir (American, 1803-1889). Embarkation of the Pilgrims, 1857. Oil on canvas. Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund and Healy Purchase Fund B, 75.188. Photo: Brooklyn Museum.

Every single day I was in Washington, D.C. during my twelve years in Congress, I would walk through the Capitol Rotunda.  Inside are four huge paintings of milestones from America’s discovery by Europe: Columbus discovering the New World, De Soto finding the Mississippi River, the baptism of Pocahontas and the pilgrims on their unseaworthy first boat. I’ve stared at the pilgrim’s painting for hours. You can see their emotions in their faces. The pride in seeking freedom, the fear of the unknown and death, their families – it’s truly awe-inspiring. But the one thing that is inescapable is their faith in God. That faith built the most free and prosperous nation in history – the United States of America!

The legacy of the first Thanksgiving is now in our hands to perpetuate.  Please give thanks to your God for the many blessings we have in Fort Bend.  Embrace and give thanks for others who may worship at a different church with a different faith than you.  Like me, you’ll quickly see that we are much more united in our gratitude than we are divided.   And that’s why we are Fort Bend Strong!

Reminder – this column is yours, so I need your Fort Bend Strong stories. I submit my column one month before it’s published. That means if you have a great story for December 2021, I needed to have it before Dia de los Muertos (November 1st). Please email your timely story to me at Remember, political columns are run through a shredder and burned.

Until next month, we are thankful to be Fort Bend Strong!