Don’t you dare think you have to cancel Thanksgiving!
Yes, I know COVID cases are higher than ever. I know CDC and statewide guidelines are discouraging travel and gathering of extended family. Macy’s Parade isn’t happening this year. I don’t follow football, so I don’t know the score there. For crying out loud, Walmart isn’t even going to be open for pre-Christmas sales! How ever will we survive? Should we just cancel Thanksgiving and hope for a better year next year?
Not a chance! Just because it’s necessary to minimize the things we always do for Thanksgiving is no reason to cancel this very important holiday.
Think through this with me.
What do you consider the essential parts of Thanksgiving?
- Turkey dinner
- Family gathering
- Macy’s Day Parade while you prepare the turkey for the oven
- Football coupled with a turkey sandwich and a piece of pumpkin pie
- Late night shopping at Best Buy, Walmart, or JC Penney’s
Now think about this. If all of those elements were taken from you, would you still have Thanksgiving? Would a Thanksgiving celebration still be possible?
I wish I had copied the tweet I saw last night. It said something to this effect. We don’t have to cancel Thanksgiving; we just need to readjust and do Thanksgiving differently.
You see, it is important that we still set aside time to give thanks to God for all He has done for us. Failing to give thanks will cause a ripple effect in your life where, trust me, you don’t want to go. So says Paul in his letter to the Romans:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”Romans 1:21 NIV
When you stop being thankful to God for what He has done for you, you lose your perspective about the world and God’s role in the affairs of men. You start focusing on only yourself. You’ll be more apt to look at the negative, “darker” side of things, and it would be all too easy to fall into a fatalistic, “what’s the use” mentality that renders you ineffective to have any kind of impact for God’s kingdom.
And the Evil One would like nothing better than for us to skid to a stop in our pursuit of grateful living. He wants us to think we have to cancel Thanksgiving. Don’t let him be the winner of the Thanksgiving Day game. Dig in your heels and say, “It ain’t gonna happen! Not on my watch!”
Yes, I know. Change is hard. It’s especially hard when you have to give up beloved traditions. But you know, we discover new traditions when we do have to change the game plan. And we realize that maybe, just maybe, some traditions weren’t so good for us after all. We also find we can tweak other traditions that make those moments even more precious.
You can celebrate Thanksgiving this year in all kinds of ways without resorting to family gatherings over Zoom. Here are some of my ideas on how you reinvent Thanksgiving:
5 Ideas That Will Keep You From Cancelling Thanksgiving
Thank You Notes
My mother-in-law, a true-blood Southern lady, was big on thank you notes. You receive a gift in the mail; you get a note in the box before the next mail pickup. Handwritten. No phone call or heaven forbid, email. She’d freak with text thanks.
Okay, maybe overboard. But it makes me think about the way I thank God. Something good happens or I count my blessings and my spirit blurts a spontaneous, “Oh thank you, thank you” and I move on to my next life detail.
This year, why don’t you and I choose one or two things we are grateful for and write an actual thank you note to God? Imagine you have received a certain blessing as a literal gift. Write out a heartfelt note to God that expresses your thanks. Even better, you could put a notecard at each Thanksgiving Day dinner place setting. Have your family members write notes during the meal, then share the notes with each other as you enjoy dessert.
Our family has done this practice for years. It’s similar to the thank you note idea above. Place three kernels of popcorn in s mini muffin liner and put one at each place setting. Between the main meal and dessert, ask each person to share one thing they are thankful for. Go around the table three times; people will build upon each other’s ideas or think of new things as they hear others talk. They will also become more comfortable on the second and third round.
We did this one year when we had four international students at our home for Thanksgiving. None of them knew each other and one girl was not a Christian. Their answers went deep and the experience made me far more grateful for the deeper, more important things of life. That day became my best Thanksgiving Day ever.
I’m in the process of moving to a new home in a couple of months. As we took yet another load of discarded possessions to Goodwill, a masked employee met us at the donation door. “Thank you for your donation,” she said.
“That is the first time I think I’ve ever heard a Goodwill employee thank me for our donation,” I commented to Preacher Creature. She didn’t just say “Thank you.” She said, “Thank you for your donation.”
We may feel gratitude inside. But it means so much more when we say the words and note the specifics.
So I challenge you. This week, tell ten people “Thank you for ______” and fill in the blank. This will increase your stash of gratitude and will bless them too. Who knows? They may become more grateful because of your example.
Count what’s in your pocket
I know. We can’t get together with all the family and friends this year that we want to. Here’s my tip. Instead of allowing yourself to be despondent about who isn’t there, focus on and find gratitude for who is there.
You know what irritates me? I’ll come to a church function and someone will say, “Where is everybody? Sure don’t have many folks here today.”
Excuse me? I’m here. Do I count?
I really get irritated when the comment about low turnout comes out of my mouth. Blush. I know better.
It’s that age old principle of being thankful for what you have instead of whining about what you don’t have. I know better because I’ve lived that principle in other areas of my life all my life. I’m the girl known for being thankful for low vision instead of whining that I don’t have normal vision. Why not apply that to my Thanksgiving Day gratitude-meter?
One blessing from COVID shelter in place guidelines is that we’ve learned to appreciate the times we can spend with people. The lack of social contact and the risk of catching a disease that could kill us or the ones we love has caused us to value those relationships even more. Every week, at my ladies’ bible study, at least one woman will say, “I’m thankful I’m here.” We’ve realized that being together is a privilege that could be taken away from us.
So, as you sit around your Thanksgiving table, value the ones who are sitting next to you. Thank God that you can be together.
Pass It Forward
I love what one of my namesakes is doing this year. The other Karen is making a big Thanksgiving dinner, then packaging it up in to-go boxes and taking it to folks in town who truly don’t have anyone else. Then she’s gathering a select few of us who also can’t go see family to have dinner at her house. (No worries. We’ve vetted each other to make sure we’re “safe.”)
A crucial part of giving thanks is the ability to pass forward the gift. Giving to others shows the level of our gratitude. It shows that we trust God to provide all we need and that we realize all that we have does not belong to us in the first place. We act as God’s managers to distribute His wealth as He sees fit.
How can you share your gifts this Thanksgiving? It could be as minimal as taking a slice of pumpkin pie to a neighbor. Your gesture won’t seem so minimal to them!
What will you do this Thanksgiving? How will you choose to celebrate? Share your ideas in the comments below this post.
Your celebration this year may not be with the traditional trappings. But I have a suspicion that as you and I strip away those outer extras, we’ll both discover a more meaningful way to celebrate a very wonderful holiday.