Do you love Thanksgiving? It has always been my favorite holiday. The older I get, the more I prefer it to Christmas. Yes, I enjoy the Advent season and Christmas itself. However, Thanksgiving rules! This is especially true culturally.
For clarification, I am referring to Thanksgiving the way I have experienced it since childhood and expect the way many people enjoy it. I recognize holidays can be challenging times. I can empathize from the holiday season following my parents splitting up in October of my senior year of high school. I am also cutting out airport and crowded highway travel stress along with the constant interference of commercial holiday advertising starting about Halloween.
By “Thanksgiving,” I mean an intentional gathering with family and other loved ones to spend a focused day together and share a delightful meal without rushing through it. Add in a meditative post-feast walk and nap, and there you have it. Such an experience often stands apart from the other 364 days of the year. This is especially true of weeks leading up to Christmas and Christmas Day itself for those “fortunate” enough to afford the luxury of an Americanized exhausting season, regardless of any faith-related squeezed in gatherings!
In a beautiful chapter titled “Gratitude” within her wisdom-filled book Mile Markers (Rodale Books 2011), Kristin Armstrong emphasizes: “Thanksgiving should serve as a reminder instead of an exception. What if gratitude became our default? There is nothing as potent as gratitude.”
How about changing to an extended “Thanksgiving Season,” stretching from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day? We could make this an intentional time to focus daily on who we are with, what we are doing, and cultivating an intentionally thankful attitude and perspective for the gift of life, our blessings, and our opportunities. The season would err toward inclusivity, appreciation, and actually seeing everyone and everything around us day-to-day.
For Christians, this seasonal change would augment Advent’s emphases on hope, peace, joy, and love. It would enhance Christmas. There would be no reason to ditch gift-giving, childhood joy, and celebration. Rather, we would transform our primary seasonal focus toward gratitude for each day and authentically living as a gift for others. Additionally, with more than a month of working each day on gratitude, we could begin to create a year-round habitual Thanksgiving mindset to inform and fuel our actions, especially how we treat one another. What a wonderful Christmas and holiday gift that would be for us personally and culturally.
Why not at least integrate working on gratitude as our routine attitude during “the season” this and each year —and continue our practice into each new day of the fresh year? We are always free to choose our mindset and response actions. Working on gratitude as a baseline is well worth our effort and commitment. Merry Thanksgiving!
Walt Shelton is an award-winning author, frequent speaker on faith and life quality topics, and law professor. His most recent book, Authentic Living in All Seasons: Focused, Fearless, and Balanced (CrossLink Publishing 2022), is a wonderful book for starting the new year or in any season of life. He encourages readers in practical ways to consider and balance priorities through self-reflection, develop preparatory daily habits, and not allow fear to inhibit pursuing our aspirations. Walt’s first Nautilus Award winning book, The Daily Practice of Life: Practical Reflections Toward Meaningful Living (CrossLink Publishing 2020), is a wisdom-filled collection of forty devotion-like chapters from an inclusive perspective, making it an ideal book for Lent or any other introspective or reflective time. These Progressive Christianity resource books make wonderful Christmas gifts and books for the New Year, Lent, or any time.