Thanksgiving’s traditional reputation of the non-commercial holiday sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas has been losing ground the last several years to the creep of Black Friday into earlier and earlier starts, prompting many to call for direct action to recapture the spirit of gratitude to the holiday. The bargain hunting mania transfers the focus from family time to the onset of holiday shopping sprees. It is called Thanksgiving but the thanks and the giving are often missing, as the focal point centers around food and commerce, according to Forbes Magazine. Taking to time to remember the heritage of the day, share with the less fortunate and voice heartfelt thanks for one’s blessings will restore the spirit of gratitude into the heart of Thanksgiving.
Contrary to popular opinion and modern experience, Thanksgiving is not about football and feasts. Neale Godfrey, writing for Forbes, suggests educating the family about the true nature of the first Thanksgiving, which was a multi-day religiously oriented event wherein the surviving Pilgrims gave thanks to God for the mere fact of being alive. In spite of great sadness at the deaths of so many of their friends and family, they made it a priority to set time aside to remember what they had to be grateful for.
The modern day celebration of Thanksgiving started with Abraham’s Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation of a yearly day of gratitude, even in the midst of the heartache and destruction of the Civil War. No matter the circumstances of life, if each member of the family can remember their own blessings and give thanks, the spirit of the Pilgrims will be honored.
The busyness of the day can steal a person’s gratitude as the pressure of food preparations and family logistics bring stress. However, pre-prepping many key parts of the meal ahead of time takes away much of the frenetic activity of the day that take away from the spirit of Thanksgiving. In addition, cooks should remember to enlist helpers so that the entire weight of responsibility for preparations does not fall entirely their shoulders allowing them no time to just breathe and enjoy the festivities with family.
It is easy to get caught up in the celebration with family and forget that some people do not have family to celebrate with. Thanksgiving is all about sharing good fortune so families can invite singles and seniors who have nowhere to go for the holiday to share their festivities. A little hospitality echoes the interaction of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. Sharing with others feeds the soul, reminding a person to “practice an attitude of gratitude” as the adage goes, allowing family members to recapture the joyful spirit in the celebrations.
Families can take giving to the next level by involving the children in donating time, money, supplies or services to local food banks, shelters and other worthy causes. Working together as a family to serve those less fortunate will be an eye-opening experience, Ms. Godfrey explains, without which the Thanksgiving festivities can feel rather empty. She does admonish people in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, however, that it is important that service is motivated from the heart, and that caring, compassion and respect will be evident by what a person does, not what he says.
Before diving into the feast or as part of the after dinner celebration, family members can take turns giving a short account of what they are grateful for. For young children, a simple statement of “I’m thankful for my teddy bear” will suffice. As children get older however, families can make rules that each new thanks has to be original, creative and not a repeat of anyone else’s or last year’s thanks. The deeper people have to dig in reflection to find a point of gratitude, the better the effect it will have in establishing a habit of gratefulness. With the spirit of gratitude recaptured and firmly set in place, do not forget to sit down and enjoy the Thanksgiving feast of mountains of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Opinion by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of the writer