I tend to do this with most holidays and special occasions. I feel like we’ve lost the real reasons why our ancestors started these traditions. Today it seems like they’ve become commercialized marketing opportunities for retailers to sell us more stuff.
This feels hollow and shallow to me, so I like to dig a bit deeper. My questioning usually leads me to a google search about the history of the holiday and the original intent. And then I like to develop some sort of small ritual or find a way to honour the essence and spirit of the occasion.
My research about Thanksgiving revealed many different interpretations and contradictions on the original meaning and story.
Of course there’s the familiar American story of the Pilgrim’s arrival on Plymouth Rock in 1620 and the horrible first winter they had. The next spring they befriended the Wampanoag Indians who taught the Pilgrims about the land and together they shared a harvest feast the next fall.
You may not know, the very first North American Thanksgiving celebration was in Canada in 1578 when English explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland and gave thanks for his safe arrival to the New World.
In the late 1800s both Canada and the United States declared national holidays of Thanksgiving.
Today these celebrations are marked by parades, family gatherings, huge retail sales, sporting events and long weekends.
I also wondered why we celebrate so much earlier here in Canada than our friends do in the US? I found out it’s because we are geographically further north which causes our harvest season to happen earlier than it does in the US.
Bottom line, and no big surprise, the season is all about the fall harvest, giving thanks for our blessings throughout the year and being grateful for the good things we enjoy.
Which is an awesome reason for a holiday. But why not celebrate our blessings and gratitude all year long? We all have something to be grateful for.
Here’s my 3 step recipe for giving thanks not just during the fall harvest season, but all year long:
1. Start a daily gratitude practice. There’s a ton of research that supports the benefits of a daily gratitude practice. You can keep a list in a journal or you simply reflect back on your day and think about everything you’re grateful for. The point is to find the blessings in each day and find a way to recognize them in a way that works for you.
2. Find the gifts in the moment. Each year, each day, each moment are gifts we are given. But what will you do with that one precious moment, day or life? Most of us rush through life from one thing to the next. Never taking time to pause and simply be in the present moment. Take time to slow down, to notice, to breathe. Take time to embrace the opportunity to find the joy in the moments you are given.
3. Share the love. It’s one thing to feel the blessings in our own lives and jot them down or reflect on them in our minds, but it is a whole other thing to express gratitude to the people in our lives. Once you start a daily gratitude practice for yourself you can then spread the love to others by acknowledging, recognizing, complimenting and thanking the people who enrich your life.
When we can open our hearts and practice grateful living, we have a more joyful existence. There is more optimism, positivity and satisfaction with life.
And while at first it may be hard to move away from critical thinking and complaining, once you get into the swing of things and find a new positive mindset, gratitude will come much more naturally and you will start to the uplifting and nourishing benefits.
“If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, it will be enough.”
~ Meister Eckhart
Over to you. How does gratitude show up in your life? Is it a daily occurrence or more of a sporadic thing throughout the year? Is there one of these gratitude suggestions you can commit to over the next two weeks?
This post first appeared here in the Halifax Citizen on October 5, 2016.