With the horrific events of the past few weeks, it feels like we need to rethink the true meaning of Thanksgiving. There are a lot of similarities between the pilgrims who left Europe, and the current wave of immigrants fleeing to Europe. In fact Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1863, in the middle of the civil war when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise”.
What do we celebrate at Thanksgiving? Family and friends, and lots of wonderful food to remember how the pilgrims joined with the Indians, to celebrate surviving those harsh winters in New England. But there are many more people in our lives that we have to be thankful for, along with the incredible array of creature comforts we have where the migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa, have lost everything.
People & The Meaning of Thanksgiving
For many families, Thanksgiving is a time when extended family gets together. When my children were little, we always drove to Syracuse, NY for Thanksgiving. With five children in my mother-in-laws family, we always had thirty or more people at the dinner table (several really) and that's how I got to know my husband's family.
When my in-laws left for Florida in October, we joined my sisters for Thanksgiving and those gatherings grew to include my sister's in-laws, who moved to Maine to be closer to family. Now that I'm wintering in Arizona, we're heading to San Diego to spend Thanksgiving with my husband's brother … so yes, Thanksgiving is about family.
But who are the other special people in your life, the ones you might be taking for granted until you need their help, or in my case, building a new support network in Phoenix.
- Doctors, dentists, trainers and anyone else you rely on to stay healthy.
- Accountants, lawyers, financial planners and others you rely on to manage your family's assets.
- People who help you maintain your home like cleaning, lawn and pool services (thanks Chad).
- Other services you use like rides to the airport (thanks Gail) which are often cheaper than parking.
- Others in your community that create the type of environment you want to live in – the library, community center, newspaper, your favorite restaurants and stores.
From The Pilgrims Houses to Our Homes Today
When you compare the house you live in today, to the first houses the pilgrims lived in, you realize you're living in luxury. Now consider the millions of migrants fleeing homes that were bombed, people who have no place to call home, and the meaning of home makes the meaning of Thanksgiving more significant.
So rather than focus on the things you don't like about your house, consider all the things your house provides that make your life comfortable today. Maybe it's time to slow down and focus on what we have versus listening to all the advertising telling us what we want.
- Shelter that keeps us dry and comfortable with heating/cooling, without having to hover around a fire.
- Large, spacious kitchens where we cook, eat, entertain and so much more versus a fireplace in the middle of a one room house, or outdoors in warmer climates.
- Multiple bathrooms so you don't have to wait your turn as you did years ago, and don't forget that once upon a time you had to go outdoors (now that's only required when camping).
- Lots of rooms, both shared living spaces and bedrooms for each child. Do kids need their own bedrooms, as this takes away so many opportunities to learn important social skills>
- Electricity that gives us light whenever we want, and powers all the technology gadgets we're collecting.
- More time saving appliances and gadgets than we realize. In fact we often can't find things so we buy another which I realized when packing to move, and found four irons.
Americans don't realize how luxurious their lifestyle is compared to the rest of the world. In Japan where I lived for three years, most families live in three or four rooms, with parents sharing one bedroom with their children. Europeans also don't have nearly the space we have in our homes, so they consider their purchases more carefully with a focus on how much storage space they have.
As Black Friday approaches, consider whether you need the things on your list. Will they really improve your lifestyle or be remembered a month after the gift is received. Most children will remember experiences like making cookies or sledding down a hill for years, but forget new clothing in weeks and new toys in months. Maybe it's time to rethink the meaning of Thanksgiving and holiday gifting.
Instead of buying lots of material things this year, consider how you can help those who have nothing. Here are a few articles providing information on organizations helping during this global migrant crisis (see the NY Times graphics showing the size of the crisis):
- CNN's How you can help in the migrant crisis.
- Time.com's Here's How You Can Help Europe's Migrants.
- Catholic Relief Services offers tips on how to donate, fundraising ideas, advocate to provide more support in the US, show your support on social media and ways to help refugees in the US.
Photo credit for the Pilgrim house goes to Swampyank.