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Give Thanks

For centuries, cultures around the world have celebrated some sort of autumn festival with the intent of giving thanks. From Erntedankfest in Germany, Kinro Kansha no Hi in Japan, and of course Thanksgiving here North America (as Canada also has their own Thanksgiving). Not to mention the many indigenous communities in America well before Europeans arrived on these shores.


There’s an odd emphasis on the ‘First Thanksgiving’ when it comes to the American celebration, even though there are variety of places that say they have the claim to the very first Thanksgiving on American soil. The first variations didn’t even cite such feasts as the reason for the holiday. George Washington called for a day of Thanksgiving in 1777 which was the first time that all 13 colonies celebrated such a holiday together. It didn’t become a reoccurring national holiday until 1863 when Sarah Josepha Hale’s lobbying finally saw President Lincoln make it official.


Considering the conflicting history (and problematic aspects), what if we all treated Thanksgiving in its simplest form. Clearly, the history of how it came to be a reoccurring holiday has little bearing on the desire for a day to give thanks since we see it around the world in a variety of cultures. It’s a very human thing to want to celebrate the good things in life. Many of these celebrations come from the end of the harvest, celebrating the land as they moved from the growing season into winter. Across the world, people saw the need to set aside a day to come together and celebrate their good fortune and give thanks for it.


Being thankful is something that shouldn’t be reserved for a holiday, of course. Most people practice their ‘please’ and ‘thank you’s on a daily basis. But how often do we really mean it? Outside of unusual circumstances, it’s simply a polite exchange done by rote. Something you say when someone did something nice for you. How often do we thank someone for something they didn’t do for us? And how often are we thankful for the simple everyday things that we take for granted?

In today’s day and age, a harvest festival doesn’t have as much meaning. Most of us aren’t out there farming and worrying about how much we’ve been able to harvest for the winter. It is still a concern for some, and perhaps we should spare a thanks to those that do worry about such things so we don’t have to. A thanks to those tending the fields, a thanks to nature for providing, a thanks to God for these everyday things we may not normally spend a thought on.


There are so many people that deserve thanks. Thanks to parents that take care of us, to siblings who are there for us, to friends who share your time. Thanks to someone who showed up at just the right time. Thanks for the things that can’t be expressed to a person. For times of comfort, for safe travels, for places that accept us. Thanks for advancement in medicine and science. Thanks for nature, for peace, for music, poetry, books. Give thanks through word, action, prayer – however you feel most comfortable.


I personally feel that setting aside a holiday to be thankful for anything and everything is an incredibly valuable thing, and it doesn’t need some vaguely historic event to justify it. The act itself is worthwhile and giving people the time to actually feel and express it even more so.


So give thanks! To people, nature, God, whatever it is you feel thankful for. Take time to be at peace on Thanksgiving and really let yourself feel it. That’s what the day is all about.


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