Five Ways to Embrace Thanks-Living

How importing Thanksgiving can improve our spiritual posture

As I write this, my friends and relatives are hopping in cars, road-tripping and caravanning across the North American continent to celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving with their loved ones (and with, perhaps, a fair amount of trepidation). Meanwhile, I'm finalizing shopping lists and menus for no less than three Thanksgivings we're contributing to. 

Even though it's a distinctly North American holiday (our Canadian brethren celebrate in October), you know the spirit of Thanksgiving in these harvest months has jumped the pond when occasional sightings of coveted tinned pumpkin disturb the expat twittersphere like UFO's over Nevada. After all, globalism has come to Ireland in the form of commerce, entertainment and trade; it only makes sense that a little importing of cultural traditions would multiply the festiveness of the holidays season. 

I'm not one for often quoting Charles Spurgeon, but as I was researching Thanksgiving ideas, I discovered this quote and found it apropos, no matter the time of year:

"I think that is a better thing than thanksgiving: thanks-living. How is this to be done? By a general cheerfulness of manner, by an obedience to the command of Him by whose mercy we live, by a perpetual, constant delighting of ourselves in the Lord, and by a submission of our desires to His will." 

Thanksgiving doesn't exist in a vacuum. The mere act of giving thanks implies there is Someone to whom we owe it, and though secular and non-religious Americans will celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving all the same, followers of Christ cannot separate the two. We owe our thanks-living to Him. 

So before the Christmas rush drowns you in mulled wine and mince pies, Santa letters and wish lists, here's five simple, practical ways we can all participate in thanks-living:

  1. Write letters of gratitude to your elders: parents, grandparents, teachers, church leaders or community leaders. Tell them why their influence has made such a difference in your life.

  2. Give back to local charities, churches, or NGOs through volunteering or financial support... or better yet, keep an eye out for people in your neighbourhood or school who could use a hand-up before the holidays.

  3. Invite someone to coffee, to dinner, or to a movie; if someone invites you, always say yes. This year, we're doing both for Thanksgiving!

  4. Write a "done it" list, remembering and honouring all the things God has allowed you to see or do. This year, I'm able to add quite a bit more to my "done it" list.

  5. Explore creation, either alone or with friends. The New Testament offers us several instances of Jesus withdrawing to a mountainside, seaside or garden to have fellowship with the Creator (Matthew 14 and Luke 5, for instance). Solitude and silence can be our most effective times of thanksgiving, but sharing them with friends or family will leave you with a gratitude high -- or if you have young kids, gratitude exhaustion.

  6. Kid-friendly bonus: watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (and follow-up with A Charlie Brown Christmas). The simple truths of the spirit of the season don't get much better than this.

Finally, if you're looking to add some Thanksgiving culinary flair to your holiday parties, visit Imen McDonnell's Farmette for American recipes with an Irish twist.

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Karen Huber

Originally from Kansas City, Karen is a freelance writer and expat mom now living in Dublin, Ireland. Together with her husband and three children, they work in community development, the local church and creative arts.