Why Is Thanksgiving Important?

A day to express gratitude.

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Thanksgiving is important because it’s a positive and secular holiday where we celebrate gratitude, something that we don’t do enough of these days. It’s also a celebration of the fall harvest. Historically, Thanksgiving has been an annual holiday observed in both the United States and Canada. Although it’s celebrated on different dates in the two countries, the reason behind this day is the same—honoring the harvest and other blessings that have occurred during the previous year. The celebration began with the Pilgrims, who in 1621 called it their “First Thanksgiving.”

In the United States, Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday in November; therefore, the date changes every year. We can thank President Abraham Lincoln for not only abolishing slavery but also for declaring Thanksgiving a federal holiday back in 1863.

Thanksgiving reflects a sense of interconnectedness among people and cultures. In these trying times, I think we need this day more than ever. It’s a holiday that’s perfect for gathering with loved ones and expressing gratitude for our blessings. For me, Thanksgiving is a reminder to appreciate all that’s joyful in my life, which includes my beloved family, friends, and colleagues; as well as my lifestyle and good health. I love this holiday because it focuses on all things positive, free of materialistic motivations such as mindless gift-giving. 

Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds me that there’s more to be thankful for than sad about. My beloved father taught me the power of positive thinking—specifically, looking at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

Even though Thanksgiving is celebrated on one particular date, I’ve made it my mission over the years to make the month of November a gratitude celebration for the entire 30 days. Each year I prepare a feast with my three children, and we always invite a special guest who most often has a nonexistent or small family. Now that I have four grandchildren, I’m thrilled to be infusing this holiday and the gratitude that comes along with it into their lives. I want them to understand all that they have to be grateful for.

Given everything that’s happening in the world—and the instability, fear, and uncertainty that many of us feel—there’s no better time than now to stop and give thanks for all that is good. We need to continually remind ourselves of the importance of incorporating gratitude into our stream of consciousness, and remember that even if it seems as if we’ve hit rock bottom, there’s always hope that we’ll come out on the other side.

If this is a difficult time for you, or if you’ve recently experienced a loss, I can understand how you might feel that you don’t have much to be grateful for. You might feel alone and lonely. Perhaps you want to be by yourself, and that’s okay, too, but if there’s anyone you wish to share the holiday with, you might consider reaching out to that person. Just know that whatever type of Thanksgiving you decide to have, it will be just right for your particular situation.

This might also be a good time for you to do what I do every November—that is, jot down in my journal all that I’m thankful for. Perhaps you’ll want to join me in this endeavor. . . .

Below is my (partial) list of things I’m grateful for:

  • My health
  • My family
  • My friends
  • My colleagues
  • My teachers
  • My physicians
  • My meditation routine
  • My journal
  • My books
  • My four-legged friends
  • My home
  • My iPhone
  • My computer
  • The air I breathe
  • The ocean
  • The sun
  • My car
  • My entire life

Here’s a poem I’d like to share with you in honor of Thanksgiving:

I’m Thankful for You

by Joanna Fuchs

Thanksgiving is the appointed time
for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days,
we can find small blessings,
but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our time
paying attention to problems.
We give our energy
to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
Starting now,
let’s be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
On Thanksgiving,
I’m thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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