At Thanksgiving, many people will make great efforts to gather with loved ones, whether friends or family. The big dinner table groaning with food and surrounded by a crowd of adults and children has become almost essential when describing how the holiday is celebrated.
Yet for some, whether by choice or happenstance, Thanksgiving will be a solo affair. Perhaps illness and mobility issues prevent you from traveling, or even venturing across town. Maybe this holiday season is punctuated by loss – of a loved one, a job, your own health – and being surrounded by others making merry is too much to bear.
Maybe, the act of thanksgiving seems onerous; for some people who have been recently touched by natural disasters (Hurricane Sandy, fire, etc.) or other hardship, there might not seem to be much to be gratfeful for.
Or, maybe, spending Thanksgiving quietly, alone to reflect upon the past year and lift up private thanks, is exactly the way you want it to be. This is my preferred way of celebrating Thanksgiving. Some people have a hard time understanding this, but I’m perfectly fine with it. Here’s why:
I’ve never thought there was one correct way of spending any holiday. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July – each has traditions, of course, and a certain societally accepted protocol. But beyond the decorations and delicacies, there is a spirit behind each of these and other holidays. And that is what I think is most important. We can carry our joy, patriotic spirit, and gratitude with us, in our hearts, even if we are not doing what it seems almost everyone else is doing. And we can celebrate holidays with that in mind (and heart) in a crowd or all alone.
Also, for me, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a very busy, festive season. Because I live with multiple chronic illnesses, it simply is not possible for me to “turn on” the festive spirit and maintain it at a high energy level from late-November through January 1. I have to pick and choose my events. So, I choose Thanksgiving to be the holiday when I’m quiet, restful, completely thankful for this time, like all others, when I can “tank up” on energy for other more boisterous occasions.
Also, Thanksgiving is a time for me to prepare a bit for Christmas. I usually start on my Christmas cards, remembering each individual on my list – and lifting up thanks for him or her. I might bake cookies, or leaf through recipe books to get ideas for holiday meals. I touch base with loved ones by phone or online, if I feel like it. Or, just take a good, long nap after a good meal.
If you are alone on Thanksgiving, I hope you know that you are no less worthy of joy because you are not surrounded by others. You are in God’s presence at all times, and moreover, there are people all over the world who are praying for you and with you on this day, as on all others. Time alone is as precious as any other, too, and you can find God’s grace and peace in it – often better than if you were in the midst of a party. And, if this time alone is because of personal pain, I pray that you know that God’s healing is available to you, in the quiet corner of your heart, and perhaps this day is ideal for listening and accepting God’s comfort.
A blessed Thanksgiving to you and all those you hold dear! And, whether you have traveled far to be with a large group of family and friends, or you are celebrating by yourself, may you feel the bounty that is God’s world and love now and throughout this holiday season.
Blessings for the day,