Thanksgiving 101: An Introduction to Thanksgiving for Kiwis and Brits
So this year our family has decided to celebrate Thanksgiving. Neither of us have any American ancestry (although I do have a few Canadian cousins that I’ve never met), but a celebration centered around gratitude and thankfulness has got to be a good thing. Right? In a hope to unleash gratitude in the lives of my children, this year we thought we might borrow this American tradition. For none of us seem to be naturally thankful by nature.
In Britain where my husband is from, Harvest Festival is celebrated in September but really only in the church. Here in New Zealand a universal thanksgiving celebration isn’t even on our radar. It isn’t part of our culture, nor do stores market to it. But perhaps it is something that could be celebrated. After all, to give thanks is very biblical, and all cultures have hosted harvest festivals from the beginning of time. However, some traditional aspects of a Thanksgiving celebration don’t really make sense in New Zealand. For one, it’s almost summer, although here in Dunedin we are still wearing our puffer jackets and it’s only around ten degrees! Harvest occurred in April/May and pumpkins aren’t really in season. Furthermore, in November life starts to get a little crazy in the Southern Hemisphere as the end of the academic school year looms, and people start to think about preparing for the consumerist onslaught that is Christmas. And then many of us prepare to go away on Summer holiday on Boxing Day!
We tend to think of Thanksgiving (in North America) as an annual national holiday commemorating a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621. While we aren’t celebrating the founding of our country, our Thanksgiving feast will be focused on giving thanks to God for who He is and everything He has given us. Here in New Zealand we can sometimes be a pretty cynical bunch. But would it change our values as a society to have a time set apart each year to come together to and give thanks? Many research studies demonstrate that thankfulness is associated with positive mental health outcomes. In fact, grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression. Grateful people cope better with a life changes. Gratefulness improves the likelihood that people will be altruistic. It is also correlated with empathy, generosity, and helpfulness, and increased general well-being for all individuals involved.
So in my enthusiasm I googled Thanksgiving and surfed Pinterest for some creative inspiration. I even found a Martha Stewart website devoted solely to Thanksgiving. But I want to keep it simple as we have a whole lot going on right now. Our plan is to have a traditional dinner substituting chicken instead of turkey (turkey is crazy expensive in New Zealand), and serve it with some other Thanksgiving faves such as mashed potatoes, corn, maple glazed carrots and bean casserole. I might even try and make a pumpkin pie. After all, you’ve got to try pumpkin pie at least once in your life! We thought we might say a prayer, share a few Bible verses on the topic of thanksgiving and enjoy each other’s company.
Here are some other simple Thanksgiving activities that we might try:
The Thankfulness Pumpkin: Invite each guest or member of the family to write one thing that they are thankful for on a pumpkin. This could make a nice centerpiece for the table. (Pumpkins are available in a New Zealand November but they tend to look rather different to the US ones).
The Thankful Tree: Cut a branch off a tree in the backyard and make this simple ‘Thankful Tree.’ Have each member of the family write something they are thankful for one of the leaves.
Check out a thanksgiving tree free printable here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/11/a-christian-family-thanksgiving-activity-the-thanks-giving-tree-free-printable/
And here are some good links to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving, before the Advent and Christmas seasons are suddenly upon us.
Why not try this amazing little activity together?
And the perfect devotionals to carry you peacefully all through this holiday season — arriving just in time to help really celebrate Thanksgiving.
And The One Thousand Gifts Free App – I’m going to download mine today on Google Playstore.
While it will be fun to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time, we don’t want a practice of giving thanks to be limited to one day. Perhaps everyday we can cultivate this dying art, and in doing so, thanksgiving becomes ‘thanksliving’. Consider that ‘neglecting to give thanks only deepens the wound of the world.’ Thanksgiving is warfare. And through thanksgiving lies the victory. Happy Thanksgiving down under.