Today I was reflecting on favorite Thanksgiving traditions. Thanksgiving sets itself apart from other holidays because it’s not so much about giving as it is about being grateful for what you already have. There is something special about this disposition of the heart.
Even though the holiday is not religious in nature — more of a reflection on the American founding than anything else — I think it is perfectly placed ahead of Christmas. A time for us to stop, contemplate, and prepare our hearts to commemorate the birth of Christ.
While Thanksgiving dinner is likely the most elaborate meal you’ll eat all year, it is still, inherently, a simple holiday. One of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving is hearing about others’ traditions and reflecting on my own family’s habits on Turkey Day!
Growing up, my family always traveled from Illinois to South Carolina to celebrate Thanksgiving at my Oma and Opa’s house (Oma and Opa means Grandma and Grandpa in German). My Mom insisted that Christmas was a holiday we had at home and family could join, but Thanksgiving was a holiday where we were willing to travel.
I remember the hours spent in the kitchen with my Mom and Oma cooking, with me, the only child, getting underfoot to taste test all the yummy treats as they were prepared.
But preparations couldn’t begin until after we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, oogled at the ginormous Snoopy float, caught our first glimpse of Santa which gave way to panicked speculation over whether Santa was, in fact, coming to *our* house this year, and let’s be honest, caught a sneak peek of all the cute dogs competing in the National Dog Show. Mid-dog show was the time when food preparations usually began.
I cherish those times because they were simple. We didn’t really dress up, we didn’t make a huge fuss (except over the turkey), and the meal was a time of gratitude. My Mom and Dad started a tradition where after we said blessing over the meal, we would go around the table and each person had to say what they were most grateful for over the last year. Some years were filled with more joy than others, but when you really paused to think, you realized just what matters and how unnecessary it was to sweat the little stuff.After my Oma died, my Opa moved in with my parents, so we don’t travel for Thanksgiving anymore, but we still continue our tradition of thankfulness.
And it’s perfect. Because even if we didn’t have a banner year, we still had things to be grateful for. And in the scheme of things, the thing we are most grateful for is that our Savior was born, died in our place and bore the wrath for our sins, and was raised again!
That amazing truth is enough to be grateful for. Some years have been better than others — the seasons where we lose loved ones (Oma passed away several years ago), endure seasons of unemployment, our health ebbs and flows (like my Mom’s histoplasmosis), and experience seasons of discontentment with circumstances in our life — none of those matter when viewed in light of the fact that God is good. And he’s happy to come to our aid when we think we couldn’t possibly utter a word of gratitude or thanksgiving.
Hope that gives you a little extra reason to be joyful this Thanksgiving season!
P.S. All photos were taken by the fabulous Jon Meadows from High-End Headshots. In addition to his specialty, head-shots, Jon also does fantastic lifestyle photography. Please direct any inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:6-7 ~