THANKSGIVING IS ONE of Americans’ favorite holidays, 19% compared to 46% for Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t survived sporadic attacks over the nearly 400 years since the famous three-day feast in Plymouth, Mass.

The rites and rituals of our national Thanksgiving have evolved over those four centuries and that process will continue, wrote Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of “Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience.”

The essence of the holiday is unlikely to change. Families and friends will continue to gather, the turkey will take the place of pride on the dinner table and the generous spirit of the American people will ensure that the poor, sick, imprisoned and lonely will be included in the celebration.

Just about every American celebrates Thanksgiving. For new citizens, it is a rite of passage. When we gather around the holiday table this Thursday, we will be taking part in our country’s oldest tradition: giving thanks.

Kirkpatrick said attacks on Thanksgiving come largely from the academy. A few years ago, a University of Texas professor suggested that Thanksgiving be replaced with a national Day of Atonement to “acknowledge the genocide of indigenous people that is central to the creation of the United States.”

In the 17th century, days of thanksgiving were originally called to express gratitude to God for specific beneficences such as a rainfall that ended a drought. Theologians feared expressing gratitude for nonspecific, everyday blessings would become an empty ritual.

In 1789, George Washington sided with proponents and proclaimed our first national Thanksgiving. Opponents said the authority rested with state governors, not the president.

By the 20th century, Thanksgiving was so popular that any tinkering of the tradition caused a revolt. Franklin Roosevelt tempted fate by announcing the holiday would be celebrated a week earlier than usual.

Half the states refused his order and in 1941, Congress passed legislation setting the holiday the fourth Thursday of November. No one has dared to propose another change. The timing fits for many reasons.

Millions of American families will feel the effects of a home invasion this Thursday as friends and relatives show up at their home or a designated venue to give thanks for their health, their friends and each other, watch football, plan their Christmas shopping strategy and feast on the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Who doesn’t like a table filled with roasted turkey, dressing, sweet and mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, a green bean dish, cranberry sauce and have it all topped off with either pumpkin or pecan pie?

In his book “Discovering the Laws of Life,” famed money manager Sir John Templeton suggested Americans embrace a different approach which he calls “thanksliving,” which is the practice of an attitude of perpetual gratitude.

He said all of us experience financial challenges, personal and health issues. They require an attitude of continual thankfulness.

Templeton reminded us to give thanks for our problems, too, not just our blessings. He said facing our challenges makes us stronger, smarter, tougher and more valuable as parents, mates, employees and as human beings.

Solving problems is what we’re made for. It’s what makes life worth living. Adversity, when overcome, strengthens us. So we are giving thanks not for the problem, but for the strength and knowledge that will come from it.

Giving thanks for this growth ahead of time will help you grow through your challenges. Circumstances alone never decide our fate. We have the ability to shape our destiny and it starts with believing we can, he wrote.

Worries, regrets and complaints solve nothing. They change nothing. Rather, they undermine our health, our social environment and our quality of life.

Difficult situations are rarely resolved with positive thoughts or gratitude alone. It takes another crucial ingredient: sustained action. Some problems are intractable. In certain circumstances, only an attitude of acceptance moves us forward.

It’s not wrong to ask for help. Under certain circumstances, you won’t succeed without help. But it’s much more satisfying when we solve our problems ourselves.

Templeton said working through our setbacks makes us more sensitive to and compassionate toward the problems of our fellow man and woman. Whatever problems you have, the best course is to face them with courage, patience and equanimity.

So be thankful for your problems as well as your blessings. Few of them can withstand the onslaught of optimism, persistence and a genuine spirit of gratitude.