With Halloween officially behind us, it’s time to start preparing for the next holiday! For many people, this means pulling out the candy canes and Christmas music. Even stores have already replaced their pumpkins and turkeys for snowmen and elves. While it is tempting to run straight from Halloween to Christmas, doing so would be a detriment to ourselves because it skips Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving can seem like the “boring” holiday in between Halloween and Christmas; however, there is so much more to this holiday than just a stuffed turkey. The holiday is especially valuable for its emphasis on being thankful, connected, and selfless.
The purpose of Thanksgiving is to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. Towards the end of a semester especially, life can feel crazy, stressed, and even joyless, yet that is not how we are intended to live. In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul encourages believers by saying, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Thanksgiving allows us to reflect on what we are grateful for and be reminded of our blessings. The story of the very first Thanksgiving highlights this idea. The Pilgrims and Native Americans had struggled for many long months and had experienced hardships. However, despite all of the negative circumstances, they set aside a specific time to gather and appreciate all they had. In the same way, life can be difficult and it can feel overwhelming, but we can use this holiday to recenter ourselves and find things to be thankful for.
Another important aspect of Thanksgiving is the way it brings people together. In Acts 2, the early church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Community is essential to living a fulfilling life, and Thanksgiving presents an opportunity for us to share a meal with the important people in our lives. Furthermore, Thanksgiving is also a time for inclusion and setting aside quarrels. The first Thanksgiving included different people groups with opposing ideas on topics such as politics and religion. However, they understood that despite their differences, they were all people and looked past their disagreements to fellowship. In the same way, we should use Thanksgiving as an exercise in loving the people around us, even the ones who are very different or we disagree with.
Finally, Thanksgiving gives us a lesson on selflessness. Halloween and Christmas both place a heavy emphasis on receiving and often end up highlighting the individual. They gratify our innate desire to be selfish and get candy and gifts. Thanksgiving is the opposite. It aligns with Paul’s teachings in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Thanksgiving helps us to focus on other people. Sometimes, Thanksgiving can be difficult to enjoy because we are not the center of attention and it is not traditionally a gift-giving holiday. However, I encourage you to use this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to express your gratitude for other people. Offer to help cook food or clear the table. Choose to focus on others and find ways to show appreciation for your friends and family.
Thanksgiving teaches us how to be grateful, connected, and selfless. While it can seem like an easy holiday to skip over, these themes of Thanksgiving are a good reminder of what’s truly important. Holidays like Halloween and Christmas often gratify our selfish desire to receive things, but Thanksgiving offers us a time to pause and reflect on our gratitude for family and friends. I encourage everyone to pause their Christmas excitement and really celebrate this Thanksgiving, thinking of ways to make the most of this significant holiday.
Note: All Scripture is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.