Thanksgiving: The holiday middle child
What are you thankful for? It’s a question many of us will have to ponder later this month around a dinner table filled with family and friends as a part of a traditional Thanksgiving celebration.
It’s a significant question — one that should make us look at our life as a member of a society and realize that we don’t go it alone.
We all have things to be thankful for, and it’s wonderful that we celebrate a holiday that pays tribute not only to an event of thanks from the early reaches of American history, but also one that unites people of our country in a way no other holiday does.
In light of that, it’s safe to say that Thanksgiving really doesn’t get its due, but maybe it’s time it did.
Despite its significance, Thanksgiving suffers from “middle child” syndrome. It’s squeezed between Halloween with all its costumes, candy and parties, and Christmas, the most commercialized holiday of them all, that jumps into our lives earlier and earlier each year. (I saw Christmas displays at Walmart on the third week of September this year!)
How can Thanksgiving compete? Maybe the answer lies in realizing something about ourselves.
As people, we allow ourselves to get more excited about external rewards than internal ones, and, despite their original ties to religion, we have allowed the external trappings of Halloween and Christmas to mesmerize us and suck us into their celebrations with greater voracity.
We get so wrapped up in it all that we end up participating in traditions tied to those holidays even when we don’t want to — think about the last-minute, guilt-driven costume you have thrown together or the gift you purchased for someone only because you “had to.”
Thanksgiving is more introspective and contemplative. There are also extrinsic parts — a traditional meal and giving thanks to others — but even they don’t come with the fanfare and packaging of other holidays.
Still, the significance of those introspections and signs of appreciation should hold up against any other holiday’s traditions and celebrations.
It’s our job to maintain their significance despite the lack of materialism that so often skews our attention.
So, for this Thanksgiving I have a suggestion. Select someone who deserves your thanks and write them a letter telling them how much you appreciate them in your life. If you are so inclined, write two. Don’t type it. This isn’t an email or a text message. Make it a handwritten letter, one where you take your time and contemplate how best to let that person know how much you appreciate them.
Believe me, it will make for a far more lasting memory in their life than anything you could ever purchase and might just begin your own traditional way of celebrating Thanksgiving for what it was meant to signify.
The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 when, in the English tradition of celebrating the harvest, the pilgrims who survived up to that fall, feasted for five days with the nearby Wampanoag tribe.
Despite the lack of evidence that the event repeated itself with any regularity until Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1863, it is fitting that the day continues to commemorate how thankful those pilgrims were to have survived their journey and the hardships of starting a colony along with the realization that they couldn’t have done so without the help of the local natives.
As such, it is just as fitting that we use such a day to recognize our own blessings and the many people whose value is priceless in our lives.
Halloween is quasi celebrated almost the entire month of October and Christmas traditionally launches on Black Friday and absorbs all of December.
So before the gift buying frenzy of the biggest holiday is upon us, let’s all take the time to remember the middle child holiday — Thanksgiving.
It gets only one day a year and without all the glitz and glam. So remember to eat up more than just the meal Thanksgiving brings.
Fill yourself with appreciation for all the things in your life worth celebrating.