Thanksgiving Misgivings

I don't mean to be a downer, but I have some issues with the holiday we're about to celebrate.

On the positive side, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for family and friends to gather together, whether traveling great distances or driving just across town.

Thanksgiving inspires many to donate to food drives, help out at soup kitchens, or reach out to those who are alone on the holiday. It promotes gratitude and appreciation for the positive things in our lives.

Yet, there are darker aspects of this holiday:

Growing up, I heard the lovely story of pilgrims and indians coming together to share a meal, and I was genuinely touched by it—until I learned the horrific truth of what actually happened to the Native people. This year, the negative response to the Syrian refugee crisis is making that aspect of Thanksgiving even harder to take.

The focus of Thanksgiving is also largely on food. Across the country people will sit down to tables that are overflowing with rich, heavy foods and feel as if it is their duty to consume as much as possible. Many will over-indulge, feeling sick or getting drunk. Much of that food will go to waste.

Thanksgiving can bring a lot of social expectations as well. Many feel pressured to put on a Norman Rockwell inspired show. Those who are alone on Thanksgiving are likely to feel isolated. Those who do gather with family can be subjected to stress in many different ways.

And then there's the holiday shopping. The Black Friday haze that creeps into Thanksgiving, dividing people into factions of shoppers or non-shoppers.

I'm not entirely sure how to negotiate this holiday, but here are a few tips I try to keep in mind:

  • Let go of expectations of what the holiday “should” be. There is no “right” way to celebrate Thanksgiving and nothing wrong with choosing to not celebrate it at all.
  • Be aware of past hurts. Strive to learn from them, to forgive, and to make amends.
  • Focus on appreciation instead of anticipation. Experience each moment as it comes and try to interact with an open heart, offering kindness to yourself and to others.

Thanksgiving has a lot of baggage, but it can also be a beautiful time for reflection and gratitude. Think about what you want to celebrate and make Thanksgiving your own.

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