The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday has been over-run by the early Christmas promotions, which is somewhat of a blessing in disguise. It means that Thanksgiving hasn’t been overly commercialized and remains largely a simple family gathering around a feast table. Of course, during the past decade the concept of what constitutes a “family” has changed. Not only with same-sex marriage and the adoption of LGBT couples of children, many gays and lesbians have formed families of friends who are their primary means of social activities and support. Not everyone is rushing to get married or even to pair up with someone. For many older LGBT persons, that prospect came too late in life to even consider.

I have spent several Thanksgivings with friends in varying locations as we join together to enjoy a holiday meal and catch up on visiting since we don’t get to see each other that often. Christmas is usually reserved for time with local friends because the hassles of travel at Christmas become even worse.

A lot of people talk about regaining the true meaning of Christmas, but what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving? Surely it’s more than just getting stuffed with food, overdosing on football on TV, and battling with in-laws over politics. Sharing a meal with family and friends is more than just a social occasion. It is a tradition of enriching a communal experience that is not limited to just Thanksgiving. Even the secular in this country practice the Thanksgiving traditions, which unfortunately are limited just to the United States.

What does it mean to be truly thankful? Well, first it means to focus on someone besides our selves. We reach out to others in kindness and humility. If we are religious, we pray to God in response for our blessings. If we are unable to be grateful, then we are incapable of being happy. Even when life is hard, and circumstances are less than perfect, a moment of gratitude can open a heart that has been bruised. Perhaps when we are too affluent and take for granted our situation in life as something to which we are entitled, then we have a very shallow experience of Thanksgiving.

Sometimes family gatherings are tense when a LGBT couple shows up the first time, and it is awkward for everyone around the table. But that is better than living a lie and playing let’s pretend. It also provides an opportunity for growth and strengthening of family relationships beyond the superficial siblings. We get to really know each other even as we have grown apart as we grow up and have families of our own. Blood relatives sometimes have the weakest links because of incidents that happened long ago that have never been forgotten or forgiven.

After I left home, I rarely got back except for Christmas so I had to bring together another kind of family for Thanksgiving. I did have a partner at various times in my life, but most of the time I was alone and had to look to friends. Now I don’t have a partner or any close living relatives, so my friends have become my family. Our local LGBT Center is wonderful in that it provides a place for lonely people to join together for a meal during the holidays.

The Lord loves a thankful heart, and may he bless you.