Ever since I was young, I remember the wonderful time we had celebrating Thanksgiving at our house. Many times, we spent the whole previous day baking and preparing for our splendid meal. The food preparation, done both on Wednesday and prior to eating on Thursday, consisted of: pumpkin pie made from scratch, stuffing, Caesar salad, delicious apple pie, handmade butter, scrumptious rolls, fresh mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the like.
My mom would wake us up early Thursday morning to help mix up the stuffing before she cooked it in the turkey. And since I have a “weak stomach,” I was normally the one who quickly stepped out of the room to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while they actually put the stuffing inside of the bird.
Then there was the job of setting the table. We’d get out the nice dishes, fancy glasses, and cloth napkins. We joined tables together and arranged seating spots just perfectly – not forgetting to put out a particular napkin ring holder for each person (since there were different styles) and to also set out name cards for each place.
Many relatives came over to enjoy our meal – it made for quite a crowded house, lots of dishes to wash afterwards, and a very, very long prayer before the meal (at least to a hungry six-year-old). And yet, I cherish the sweet memories of that special November Thursday.
But several years ago, things drastically changed. The celebration of that special holiday in our house was suddenly very different and it’s been different to me ever since. Baking all the pies doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, watching the parade doesn’t really matter to me anymore, and there is no longer a procession of relatives packing into the house. In fact, these last few Thanksgivings, my whole family hasn’t even been able to celebrate it together.
So I began to lose my excitement over the holiday. “What’s so special about it, anyway, since it is so much work and hassle for only us? Why get out the nice china? Why dirty the cloth napkins? Why make such a big deal about this fancy meal?” So I turned the one day of the year the entire country talks about thankfulness into an avenue for complaint. In my stubbornness and desire to have “fun” on Thanksgiving “just like the good ol’ days”, I harbored this attitude these couple of years.
But God has been teaching me recently that Thanksgiving isn’t about the type of food we eat, how many people come over for dinner, or even who we celebrate with – it’s about the gratitude that comes from our hearts. My hope has been that this year, God would fill me with His joy regardless of what would happen on that day – because the fact is, we truly have many reasons to be thankful. When Christ is our focus, we will be thankful no matter what the circumstances – even if the mashed potatoes got burnt, there was a mismatched napkin, dishes piled up to the sky, and the turkey wasn’t ready on time.