Thanksgiving is my very, very favorite season; I use the word "season" on purpose, because I string it out as long as possible, and I love everything about it. Not long after I get back from summer vacation, I start thinking about pumpkins, pilgrims and possible Thanksgiving Day menus. My Indian and Pilgrim statues start appearing on my dining table, the summer flowers don't look pretty anymore, oranges and gold take over outside and the theme begins. The idea of autumn colors, fragrances, family and food are exciting to me. There are so many things to love about Thanksgiving, and one of the favorite things to me is that you can really look forward to family visits without the pressure of, "Did I buy you the right gift?" "Where did I put it?" "When am I going to get it paid for?" Thanksgiving is the opportunity to look the people that you love in the eye and see and hear them without the gift pressure. The emphasis is on others ("How are you, really?" "What are you concerned about?" How can I help you?") instead of on ourselves (Are we adequate? Did we remember everything? "Do you like what I bought?")
Now, I love gift-giving every time and anytime except Christmas or birthdays. When gifts are "expected," it takes some of the fun out of it for me, and somehow the focus gets skewed and the attention is on the giver instead of the "givee," if that's a word. I love looking in a catalogue in June or April and see a thing that is "just right" for the person I care for. I love to be surprised when I find the "perfect gift" for someone when strolling down an aisle when just passing the time, but everything changes when the "I've got to find just the right thing" attitude kicks in.
Well, back to Thanksgiving, none of that "present" pressure is in the air, and if you want to show your love for your friends and family, you can help with acts instead of money by helping to get the table ready or by bringing a dish, or fixing a favorite food or just coming and smiling and holding the baby or sharing a long-ago story and treasuring the moments together. The focus is on being thankful, and that attitude makes you a winner at any time of the year. There are always people whose meaningful family gatherings are in the past and those whose grief is very real. Even at those times, thanking and giving of yourself and focusing on blessings help to bring healing to us. I find that thankful people are usually more unselfish toward others than complainers. The "attitude of gratitude" really works.
There are several reasons why I start Thanksgiving early and hold on to it as long as I can (I do that for Christmas, too). One of these reasons is that thanking God for our blessings taps into a spiritual principle that works for happier living for everyone. When people are thankful, that means that they are not complaining or griping or judging; those negative attitudes put toxicity into the room or workplace. It's a proven fact that you can't be expressing gratitude and griping at the same time, so the atmosphere is clearer for a time. On the other hand, who doesn't like to be around people who have a sincere grateful heart?
Anyone who knows me well knows that another reason I start Thanksgiving early is that I detest Halloween, and I have a one-person campaign of living with the notion that "If you ignore it, it will go away." Apparently, since Halloween is now second only to Christmas in sales and celebration, my campaign is not being very successful. Still, I am happier thinking about the Pilgrims coming over on the Mayflower than witches flying in on brooms.
When did we as a nation come to celebrate darkness and fear rather than light and peace, greed rather than charity, and danger rather than safety? This is a mystery to me. We, as teachers of young children, give much thought and attention all year long in an attempt to allay children's fears and create for them an environment which is safe and peaceful. Children seem to acquire many fears on their own without our having a day to celebrate the subject.
Beautiful leaves, orange pumpkins, corn stalks, bonfires, golden chrysanthemums, autumn sunlight and harvest moon, children's plays, wonderful food, seeing friends and family that you haven't seen enough over the year; these are all things that I love to plan for, linger over and remember. I enjoy the mental images from my past of men in families having time to fish or hunt, watch football, or play golf together while the ladies at home are preparing a scrumptious meal.
I'm a bit concerned that I may have let the cat out of the bag about the purpose of that dinner between Halloween and winter holiday! I'm afraid that if I put into print that the purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks to God, as is historically correct, the same "protectors" of political correctness who are trying to blot out "in God we trust" and Christmas will attempt to wipe Thanksgiving from the calendar also.
I won't make too much of a fuss about it publicly, but I do want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving Season.
- (You can reach Pat Bryson at firstname.lastname@example.org)