Growing up my winter holidays were first thanksgiving, followed by Halloween, Remembrance Day, and then Christmas. It wasn’t until 1997 that I celebrated my first American thanksgiving, stuffing the turkey between the oft-ignored Veterans Day and Christmas. In the beginning I took it as an act of mercy: a long weekend to prepare for finals. I’ve only recently been able to appreciate it as a preparation for Christmas.
While I’m not as outwardly demonstrative as my friends who post a daily gratitude each day of November, I do enjoy the daily devotional of being grateful for individual, specific things. It’s another form of the walking to school practice my friend Jessi taught me wherein she prayed her entire walk to campus and tried to only list the “thank the”s and not ask for a single thing. However we do it, whether it be social media, paper chains, feathers on the turkey, a cornucopia, a prayer of thanks in our hearts, or whatever else, devoting the month before Christmas to gratitude helps to prepare us for Christmas.
The gratitude practice prepares us for Christ in both a metaphoric and literal sense. Often as we count our blessings we recall from whom all blessings come, and additionally we are more inclined to kindness and charity to each other, seeing the good in them and being grateful for their roles in our lives. As we show more love to them and serve them more we again come closer to Christ.
I do still celebrate thanksgiving, albeit on a smaller scale, in October, and I lament that American thanksgiving is either encroached upon by Christmas or makes the Christmas holiday feel rushed, but after 19 years I’ve come to settle into the step-wise preparation for Christ that begins with gratitude before turning to service.