I like Thanksgiving and I’m allowed to like it for any reason at all, including none. But I wanted to think through the holiday this year to elucide my thoughts about it, perhaps to help you like it as well. You already like Thanksgiving? Then never mind. Else read on.
One apocryphal origin story for American Thanksgiving tells us that the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 had a harvest festival the next year to thank God for favoring their crops so that they could survive. That may have happened. If you believe in God and wish to thank Him like those settlers did on this holiday, you certainly should. But I’m not sure about god, and I don’t believe in observing a tradition just for tradition’s sake if you don’t believe in its reasons, so this tale is not useful to me.
In any case, no god needs your thanks. That’s not a criticism of your religion, whatever it may be, it’s a conclusion that can be drawn from the definition of a god. If a god needed something from you, that would negate its divinity.
Additionally, the universe and the earth and this plane of existence all go about their respective businesses regardless of whether you thank them or not and with no hurt feelings if you choose not to.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong in sending those aforementioned intangibles your thanks. It’s just a word or a thought and barely takes any time. Your god might like to hear from you.
The First Thanksgiving “Photo” Bomb
What about your family? You might be inclined to respond automatically that you should thank your parents for your existence. Whether you resulted from planning or passion, so long as you weren’t abandoned to an orphanage or the foster system all of your life, it would make sense to thank whomever gave you food and shelter in your dependent years. Go ahead. But if being around your family makes you hate your life for the duration, I might suggest you alter your traditions. On this day, find something better to do.
Another version of the origin story of American Thanksgiving claims that the harvest festival of 1621 was for the pilgrims to thank the Wampanoag tribe for teaching them the agricultural skills the newcomers needed to survive. That would certainly make sense if it were true. This would make the holiday a time to thank your friends and coworkers.
Grocery Store, Thanksgiving Eve
Then, should you thank your friends? Well, I would hope that you thank them for their specific kind actions as they occur. And I think the best thanks you can give to someone for being your friend is to be a good friend to them. So, do that. Sharing foods with your friends is certainly a thankful gesture of friendship, and maybe that’s all you need to know.
But what about you?
If you are a decent person, it is in your nature to some degree to blame yourself when things go wrong in your life. It’s a little free-floating guilt that many of us seem to possess, regardless of religious or cultural upbringings.
Yet, how often do you stop to appreciate what you have accomplished? Whether it’s having a fulfilling career or comfortable home, raising a family, doing well in school, creating good works, supporting a community, or just getting through a tough day, it’s something. It’s something you have done and regardless of whether you did it by yourself or with help, you should be proud of it.
Too many people I consider good and decent have a tendency to focus on what they haven’t done or how they have not succeeded. Certainly, recognize where you can improve your life and put your mind to making those improvements. But that your life isn’t perfect is no reason to overlook the ways in which it makes you happy.
If, by chance, you really have accomplished nothing with your life, then I agree that you shouldn’t be thanking yourself. But as long as you are alive, you have an opportunity to make things better. Be glad you have that chance.
This Thanksgiving, I am living in a place I like. I have good friends and a rewarding job. I can laugh and sing and dance. I can read and watch and create stories. There is beauty and warmth and love in my life. Sure, I’d like to have more stuff. I’d like more money to do more stuff, too. But those are just goals for the future that don’t negate the awesomeness of my present.
This point in my life is full of such outstanding quality both because of what my friends have contributed and because of what I’ve done myself. As I eat, drink, and be merry this day, I am proud of myself and I am thankful to my friends. If some part of these thoughts I’ve written down helps increase your enjoyment of this day, then I’m proud of that as well.