My original answer always sounded something like this: I love Thanksgiving because, it is the start of the holiday season, and because, you know, the parade, the excitement, the turkey, all the other food, getting together with family, being thankful for things, and so on.
Deep down I knew what I was trying to say in my jumble of stereotypical holiday lingo, however, I never really knew how to phrase it.
I have been brought up in very fortunate surroundings. For many, the holidays mean more pressure, more work, fights, spoiled brats, and little or no appreciation. These people have to go into the holidays with a penciled-in-smile on their face and come out of the holidays saying how wonderful everything was when in reality they spent most of the day at odds with those they love.
For others, the holidays are all about one person, ME. All this person cares about is the bottom line—What is in it for ME? What gifts will I be getting? The rest doesn’t matter, they could walk by dozens of manger scenes and hear continuous carols played but the bottom line of the holidays for them is always of selfish concerns.
As I reflect on my life, I remember that the holidays hold many of my treasured memories, and perhaps this is why I hold them so dear.
I used to always claim Christmas as my favorite holiday because, of course---it’s Christmas! But when I really thought about it, I found Thanksgiving to truly be my favorite holiday. It’s like preparing for a wedding. The wedding day isn’t the only exciting thing about a wedding. The engagement, the preparation, the bridal shower, the rehearsal, these things added together brings about the excitement for a wedding.
The ultimate excitement does come to a climax on Christmas day, but the events surrounding Christmas, to me, are full of the most holiday cheer.
If someone were to swipe away all my Thanksgiving traditions and leave me merely with the ability to celebrate with a turkey dinner, but nothing else, the day would be ruined. You see, the day isn’t built around just some meal. My love and excitement for the day goes to times shared and memories made. Sometimes these memories are traditions like eating a breakfast composed of all desserts, or watching the Macy’s parade snuggled up on the couch, or “helping” dad carve the turkey by picking at juicy pieces hanging loose. And then, sometimes these memories are impromptu surprises, like going to the movies after the meal with my older brother, or going out with my dad to look at a Corvette that I desperately wanted to buy. (And I did!) The day is full of excitement and anticipation, and best of all everyone is home and together. And once the day ends, we all know the excitement won’t go away because it has only just begun.
Thanksgiving marks the start of more traditions, more family times, more coziness and comfort. So often we view these holidays as just what they are: Thanksgiving equals turkey, Christmas equals presents. But they are so much more. The holidays are memories waiting to be made. They are times to put this crazy life on hold, times to give rather than to receive, times to snuggle up with ones you love while gazing at a beautifully lit tree with or without presents under it.
So simple, yet, so often we get it all wrong. We allow the holidays to take our spirit rather than to give it to us. We allow the holidays to become an excuse to be ungrateful rather than content. We complain that we have children to shop for, meals to cook, and family to visit.
But what if we didn't? Every complaint we make could become a statement of grief if the things we complain about so often weren't there to complain about.
Think about it.
So here is to starting this holiday season with excitement and hope. Here is to sharing traditions, both old and new, with those you love. And most importantly, here is to holidays that are rich and full of childlike emotions that are hard to express but wonderful to experience and take part in.
For all the things we have, may the Lord make us truly grateful.