This year, I put off buying Halloween candy until the day before Halloween and when I went into the grocery store, there was not a single piece of Halloween themed candy to be found. The workers were putting christmas* candy and items on the shelves that just the day before had held Halloween paraphernalia. I contemplated briefly buying christmas candy and giving it out. But what really hit me was the question “what about Thanksgiving?”
Around my neighborhood, there are quite a few folks who really do up their yards for Halloween. And within the first few days of November, some of them had transformed their yards into christmas themed wonderlands. And again I thought, “what about Thanksgiving?”
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it hasn’t been consumerized like Christmas and Easter, I guess, perhaps, because it wasn’t a Christian celebration to begin with but a national one. Thanksgiving has always been about gathering with family and loved ones over a good meal and remembering all that we have to be thankful for. And it always made me think of the command God gave regarding the Passover feast as told in the book of Exodus to pass the tradition down to all generations as a way to remember.
Now, yes, I’ll acknowledge that the day after Thanksgiving has been consumerized into it’s own national day of Black Friday but that’s all about the consumerization of christmas. And, yes, I’ll also admit that other events have made their way to the top of some folks’s priority list such as football and hunting season. But Thanksgiving has remained a simple idea of gathering with family and loved ones over a good meal and remembering all that we have to be thankful for.
Maybe it’s because I’m spending much less time in stores these days or that I don’t watch much tv with commercials anymore but I’m just not seeing much about Thanksgiving this year. Have we forgotten? Have we let consumeristic events push Thanksgiving to the bottom of the priority list? Would we rather go shopping than spend time thinking about all we already have to be thankful for? Have we decided it’s just easier to avoid family gatherings so we won’t need to have conversations with our loved ones who think differently that we do?
The original day that we recognize as the first celebration of what we now call Thanksgiving was to give thanks for the successful corn harvest that Native Americans helped the colonists learn to grow. These colonists formed an alliance with the Wompanoag tribe with the assistance of Squanto a Native American who had been formerly captured and forced into slavery by an Englishman. Squanto helped the suffering colonists learn how to survive in their new home. How heart breaking it is to know that this alliance is the very rare exception to how Native Americans have been treated through the centuries to come.
I once had someone tell me that just because they didn’t openly express gratitude didn’t mean they weren’t actually grateful. But I don’t think that’s possible. When we are truly grateful, we can’t help but say so. We teach our children to say ‘thank you’ to teach them gratitude and we never get too old for such lessons. And when we see our life and all that we are and all that we are able to do and all that we have as a gift from God, we cannot stop ourselves from giving thanks. We remember. We remember Whose and who we are as beloved children and we want to pass the joy and hope and peace that comes from this ‘knowing’ on to every generation.
“Give thanks to the LORD because he is good. God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
Psalms 136:1 CEB
Let’s not skip Thanksgiving. Let’s not skip giving thanks, being grateful for all that we are and all that we are able to do and all that we have. The more we practice gratitude the more we become aware of God’s presence always and the more we become aware of God’s image in each other. Gratitude strengthens our compassion muscles so that we can participate with God in making this world more and more on earth as in heaven.
What are your Thanksgiving plans? Know that I am so very thankful for you and for our journeying together. My life would not be the feast that it is without each of you.
*before you try to correct my capitalization, I am using a lower case ‘c’ intentionally to distinguish between the secularized celebrations of gift giving and the celebration of God coming to us in the person of Jesus to remind us of whose we are as God’s beloved children. It is my ‘grammar nerd’ method of protest.