In my heart, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It gets overshadowed by That Big Holiday that is always just 30 days or so later, and since it is traditionally the “start” of the holiday season, we don’t really ever have a chance to anticipate it. Thanksgiving is unconditionally positive, unlike the somewhat sinister late October holiday that our culture traditionally celebrates.

Thoughts on gratitude

Thanksgiving is the only national holiday that explicitly calls us to recognize and individually express an internal, personal attribute, namely gratitude. While other holidays call us to remember the heroic or sacrificial contributions of others, only Thanksgiving draws from within us a perspective beyond our own circumstances and calls us to at least consider an unselfish gratefulness for the numerous blessings that uniquely mark each of our lives.

We live in a very externally oriented culture. Our national values emphasize debate, even to the point of dispute and debacle. The topic du jour consumes our public discourse with point and counterpoint and all the related political and cultural sequelae. Yet Thanksgiving exists as a counter to this, a proposition universally valued, regardless of other traditions, values, or perspectives, that brings a pause to the daily cacophony for the sake of this internal moment. While not celebrated with our adversaries, we understand that, with us, it is celebrated by our adversaries. It becomes a mark of our common humanness.

Gratefulness is universally understood.

No one needs gratefulness explained, even if it is not always expressed. We know that we depend on others for the significant and valuable things in our lives. Our self-reliance and independence break down at some point and we are compelled to recognize the contributions of others, past and present, or perhaps eternal.

What are we thankful for?

The focus of Thanksgiving, though, seems to be on the object of our gratitude, what we are thankful for. Health, family, natural beauty, work, personal circumstances-they are all worthy of gratitude. Thanksgiving, in its original constitution, was an expression of gratitude towards the source of those things we are grateful for. Recognition of that source is diminished in our current cultural experience of Thanksgiving, but no one who seriously considers their own gratitude can fail to recognize that there is a source for everything they are grateful for.

It may be gratitude towards parents for the gift of life, or an employer for the benefits work brings, or a spouse for marriage and family. Those are all good, and the recognition of their contributions to our lives gets us out of our own heads. At a deeper level, though, there is an opportunity to recognize that we were created by a loving and able God who provides variously but individually for his creatures. He gives abundantly and continuously to all, and without distinction. Most significantly, He offers a relationship with Himself.

Being thankful to God

Other holidays offer greater celebration, with fireworks and concerts or parades. Some provide greater family time or time off. Some just occur during warmer times. Those are all fun and I love the uniqueness of each, but in my heart, Thanksgiving is the best because it offers all 320 million Americans regardless of background or belief the opportunity to remember, or perhaps recognize for the first time, not just what they are thankful for, but who they can be thankful to.

What are you thankful for today? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Scott Bengtson


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Thanksgiving is the only national holiday that explicitly calls us to recognize and individually express an internal, personal attribute, namely gratitude. Is that what makes Thanksgiving the best holiday? #Thanksgiving #gratitude