Depending upon where you are when you are reading this the word “Thanksgiving” will have very different associations.
If you are in the US you are no doubt in full flow with your preparations for Thursday; the pumpkin pies will be baking and the turkey defrosting as I type.
If though, you are elsewhere in the world, you probably see Thanksgiving as a purely American celebration, after all, what relevance does it have to you in your house in the south of France?
Well, perhaps more than you might think. Let me give you my take on this day and see if I can convince you of its relevance for everyone.
What is the history of Thanksgiving?
Well, it is fundamentally a Harvest festival. A celebration of all the food nature has provided to help us get through the cold winter months. Most cultures and religions have a variation on this festival. It is a very primitive need to be appreciative of the food we have to nourish us and of course that is much more scarce or non-existent during the winter months. So we say thank you to whatever higher power we believe in for providing for our family through those dark and cold days.
The festival celebrated in the US takes its origins from the pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in the early 17th Century and the first meal they had with the Native Americans. Families decorate the home, cook a wonderful meal and bake seasonal goodies such as pumpkin pie and minced pies.
More importantly though, families take time to think about what they are grateful for. School children do lots of work in the lead up to Thanksgiving about gratitude and often perform random acts of kindness. Families often sit round the table and each share what they are thankful for before tucking into a feast of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce… yum!
Sounds like a Christmas dinner to me, as a Brit, I would definitely be feeling grateful for such a delicious meal with all my family around me!
The meal may be very similar to a traditional Christmas meal but the rest of the day is very different. In many families now Christmas has become all about indulgence and presents. We often forget to be grateful for all the wonderful things we have, that we are with our loved ones, that we have food during the coldest, bleakest time of year.
“Thanksgiving day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude”
In a world where consumerism and waste seems to dominate, let’s appreciate this celebration of gratitude and family. Let’s all take time to eat together, to feel truly thankful that we have food to eat, a warm home and people who love us. Take the time to think of those who do not have all the amazing things we have. Perhaps consider doing a reverse advent calendar for a local food bank or taking a donation to a homeless shelter. Just check on an elderly relative. Think of others and help someone else feel really cared for.
That is what Thanksgiving is all about, for me anyway. What does it mean to you?