Thanksgiving. More and more, we’re calling it “Turkey Day.” Is Thanksgiving a holiday about eating as much turkey, stuffing, and pie as we can possibly handle? Has this holiday, like so many others, become so fixed on staying busy, keeping up our traditions, watching football, and buying stuff that we’re missing the point?
For the past few years my dad wasn’t well enough to travel, so we hosted Thanksgiving at our house. We invited friends, family, whoever needed a place to land, and I cleaned and shopped and cooked. Numbers varied, but we usually ended up with a dozen guests crowded around our table built for six. Somehow we made it work.
I enjoyed the people and the food, but I ended the day exhausted. Even when some people contribute a dish or two, and everyone else pitches in to wash the dishes afterward, putting together a Thanksgiving dinner is a lot of work! This year my dad is no longer with us. We don’t have to be home, and I’m pretty tired at the moment, so I announced that I was taking a break. Someone else would have to pick up the slack.
You wouldn’t believe the reactions. They were perfectly reasonable—but no one wanted to cook. One daughter and her family live out of state and were joining the other grandparents there. Our other daughter and son-in-law have a new baby, and they weren’t up to hosting. Friends were equally tired. It was as if the turkey was a hot potato that no one wanted responsibility for.
We discussed volunteering at the rescue mission, but they already had all the people they needed. Or, perhaps we could go out for Chinese food (at least there’d be no crowds). We considered staying home and buying a pre-cooked chicken from the market. Some people really wanted turkey with all the fixin’s; it mattered a great deal. Others didn’t care about the menu, they just wanted to be together.
To make things even more complicated, we all have dietary restrictions. Most typical Thanksgiving foods are not on my “no sugar or simple carbs” diet. I can’t have sugar—there go the cranberries and pumpkin pie (unless I make them with a sugar substitute). I shouldn’t eat white potatoes, and I put pineapple sauce on the sweet potatoes instead of brown sugar and/or marshmallows—but no one else does that. Our son-in-law doesn’t care for mushrooms or green beans, while Pete absolutely loves green bean casserole. Pete also loves apple pie, and I’m allergic to apples.
Finally, we settled on reservations at a near-by restaurant. They’re serving the traditional Thanksgiving meal, so everyone can have their turkey (with apple cider gravy) and stuffing (the restaurant puts apples in it), sugary candied yams and pecan pie. Since the only parts of their Thanksgiving dinner I would be able to eat are the turkey and green beans, I’ll be eating something else from the menu. Mostly, I’m very thankful that I don’t have to cook.
I predict that next year we’ll go through all this discussion and decision making all over again.
Nearly 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and even vegetarians cook up some sort of harvest-themed feast. Traditions are important, and we obviously take them pretty seriously. I begin to get concerned, however when we’re so focused on the food that we forget to thank the One who provided it—and so many more blessings besides.
The mood in this country is currently pretty depressed. No one likes it when their standard of living goes down, and it has for many people. Turn on the TV or open the newspaper and you’re confronted with yet another mass murder. No matter which side of the aisle you favor, politically-motivated antagonism has everyone upset. When all the news is negative, it’s easy to feel disheartened.
This year, perhaps more than ever, we need to get our minds off our misery and start saying thank you. I considered joining the Facebook crowd posting one thing they’re thankful for every day, but I couldn’t decide where to start. Once I thought about it, there were just too many blessings to choose from!
Instead, I’m making a mental list of the endless reasons to thank and praise God. It starts with being grateful for his grace and mercy. I’m thankful for my family and friends, for living where we live, for my chickens, and gecko and even the elderly cat shedding on my lap. And that’s just the beginning. What’s on your list?
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4)