Thursday 23rd November marks Thanksgiving, a day when families get together to recognise and express gratitude for the blessings in their lives. Though the holiday is rooted in American history and is primarily celebrated in the US and Canada, it is becoming increasingly popular to take part in other countries around the world.
What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is celebrated every year in the USA on the fourth Thursday in November, and in Canada on the second Monday in October. The day celebrates the anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, which is believed to have been held in 1621, though there is some debate around the precise date.
Long before the Mayflower landed on the east coast of America, bringing 101 men, women, and children from England to the ‘New World’, the area was inhabited by Native American tribes. These people knew how to hunt, fish and harvest the crops to survive the cold winters, and when they discovered that the settlers (known as Pilgrims) were struggling to prepare for the winter months, they made an agreement to help. Once they had finished hunting and gathering their supplies, there was a huge three-day feast, and the English and native people celebrated together, sharing their bounty.
Modern Thanksgiving celebrations in the US and Canada are family-centred. People travel to their family homes and enjoy a big meal, during which they take turns to express their gratitude and share what they are thankful for, and to commemorate that first successful harvest that enabled the pilgrims to survive.
Even if you’re not in North America, this is the perfect holiday on which to get in touch with your spiritual side. So if you want to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, here are our tips.
How to Celebrate Thanksgiving
Take time to reflect
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and thankfulness, so this is the perfect day to pause and take some time to reflect on your life, and what it is that you’re thankful for. Start the day off right by practicing meditation, and thinking about all of the good things in your life.
To help you remember the things you’re grateful for, why not write them down in a gratitude journal. Take a notebook, and jot down a few things every day that you’re thankful for. This is a great way to reflect, and to remind you of the good things. This is particularly useful when life is hard or challenging, and you’re struggling to find things to be grateful for; you can read through your journal, and remember that you have lots to be happy about.
Thank the special people in your life
Everybody loves to hear that they’re appreciated from time to time, so make the effort this Thanksgiving to show your thanks to those special people in your life. Call your parents and tell them how much you love and appreciate them; buy your spouse a surprise gift; or treat your children to something special.
Or maybe you have a friend who always has your back and deserves to be thanked, or a colleague who always goes the extra mile, and should be given a pat on the back. Whoever it is, make sure that you take some time to show them just how much they mean to you, and how thankful you are that they are in your life. You will probably make their day!
Spend time with family
The traditional Thanksgiving celebration centers around the feast, to honour the successful harvest. Join in these celebrations by hosting your own Thanksgiving dinner and inviting your friends and family. It’s common to eat turkey, but this isn’t mandatory. Why not ask everybody to bring a dish, so that there is a wide variety of food to enjoy?
During the meal, go around the table and have everybody take turns to express what they are grateful for. You could even play the ‘A to Z game’, where each person says one thing they are thankful for beginning with a letter of the alphabet, until you get to Z.
When we stop to reflect on our lives, we often realise that we have a lot to be thankful for. Even in difficult times, most of us have family and friends around us to offer support, and jobs that pay us enough to keep food on the table.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everybody. Many people are going through extremely hard times and facing challenges, from poverty or homelessness, to illness or bereavement. If you’re feeling lucky and thankful for your life, now is the perfect time to give back, and you can do this for volunteering for a good cause.
Maybe there’s a homeless shelter whose staff would appreciate some extra hands for a few hours, or nursing home residents who would enjoy some company. Or if you don’t have time to volunteer, you could donate to a charity. Anything you can do to give back and help somebody in need is the perfect way to spread the joy of the holiday.