If you’re looking for a simple answer to this question, then no I don’t. I’m not American and so therefore have no reason to celebrate what the ‘Founding Fathers’ did for America. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not against Thanksgiving, but it’s a holiday we just don’t celebrate over this side of the pond. But, for me, the American holiday of Thanksgiving falls on almost the same day as the season Advent begins. Most years Thanksgiving falls on the Thursday before Advent Sunday, as it did this year.
Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the Church year. When I was younger, I found this very confusing. I could cope with two different definitions of a year – the normal year (January-December) and the school year (September-August). But the Church year? That used to be a bit too much for me to get my head round. What’s the point of having a year that goes from Decmber-November? Well now I understand. Advent’s the point. Before we celebrate Christmas, a time of great joy and thanksgiving, hope and excess, we need a time to reflect, to refelect on the past year, reflect on the good and the bad, to reflect on what we’ve done, how we’ve done it and what the future holds.
And part of this time of reflection is giving thanks, reflecting on what we’re thankful for in our own lives over a period of 4 weeks before we reach Christmas, and start a new calendar year. And in this respect, I do ‘do’ thanksgiving, but over Advent, and not in one day. At the beginning of Advent I write down what I’m thankful for, and every day I write down any reflections or prayers I might have on strips of paper, and glue them together to form a paper garland that will decorate my room over Christmas.
Because Advent is a time of waiting, not only for the coming of Christ, but for the coming of the best version of ourselves.
So I thought I’d share some of the things I’m thankful for this Christmas. Thinking about what I am grateful for always makes me feel so lucky, because I know there are people all around me, and further afield who will never get the chance to live the life that I have had up to this point, and I pray for them every day.
- I am thankful for my faith, for waking up each morning and knowing that I will always walk with someone in life, that there is someone who loves me more than words will ever be able to describe, who shows me the right path even when it seems treacherous, who rejoices with me, who feels pain like me, and who makes me be the best person I can be.
- I am thankful for my family, that they are always there to support me, provide for me, and give me hugs. I am grateful that we spend time together, and laugh together, and that we are always there for one another, even when we argue and just want to be alone.
- I am thankful for my education, for my teachers and the opportunity to go to the school I do. For my teachers who inspire me, put up with me, and pick me up when times get tough. I know this term that I would have lost my smile without them being by my side to encourage me and for me to turn to when I needed to.
- I am thankful for the communities that I am a part of, for the Cathedral where I worship and all who live and work and worship there. They have been such a big part of my life, and are selfless and uncomplaining in everything they do and are also always there to support my family and I.
- I am thankful for our friends, who make us laugh, share in our stories and our mischiefs. Both for those who we see regularly, and those who live abroad.
- I am thankful for music, that it can life my spirits, echo my thoughts and join people together in harmony. For the friends that I have found in my music, and for the confidence I have found this year.
- I am thankful for the stable environment in which I live. For the ability to have shelter, security and stability. For the basic needs of food and clean water which I too often take for granted. I am grateful to have a space where I can just be me, and share times with family and friends.
- I am grateful for books, for the joy that they bring and the fleeting glimpses of me that I find hidden in every story. I am grateful for the ability to read and lose myself in a world which is removed from my own. For the hope that books bring, and the feeling that you are never alone.
- I am thankful for this, my blog, and the network of people I have reached with it. For the ability to make someone stop and think, and to say how I truly feel without restraint. For the freedom of speech, and for the power that words can have striking the chords deep within us. For the chance to document my life, and to share it with others in the hope that just one person out there who reads this will find that they are not alone.
- I am thankful for the healing and redeeming power of love. For those who it touches and brings together, and for the hope found in it. For the courage that we find in love and the joy that it brings. For the fact that we are all loved and we all love, even if sometimes it seems hard to find.
So I don’t spend Thanksgiving eating pumpkin pie and turkey. But I do give thanks, and I will continue to give thanks every day of my life, for what I have, and for what is to come.