5 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Meaningful

thanksgiving photo
Photo by Martin Cathrae

How do you typically spend your holiday season? Do you spend it alone or with many other people? What do you often look forward to? Family, food, holiday music, holiday parties, time off from work, snow, the decorations, the football games and parades, or the natural meaning in the air between the days of Thanksgiving and Christmas? Whatever it is, does it offer your holiday season a much greater purpose than if you did not have these things? Many people find themselves attracted to the holiday spirit, even the most resistant among us. But does having that holiday spirit truly add meaning to your holiday?

Each holiday season I find myself, as many others do, so much more connected to others than I typically would be. I find that all of my senses are more intune to those around me and the small things we so often pass by each day. The days are slower and the ability to “meditate” on family connection, the lyrics of beautiful holiday music, and  the gratitude of having food, warmth, and shelter is so much easier and more natural during this time of year. But the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas should not just consist of food, spending money, family, and gathering all the material wealth that we can, but it should primarily consist of:

  1. Community: A community is a small group of people who are very close to each other due to proximity. But the type of “community” I am referring to is the community that brings all cultures, ages, and ethnicities together because of one common attribute that we all have, which is that we are all human and in search of meaning. Of course, we should be motivated to have community during the 365 days of the year, but the holiday season provides us with greater opportunities to express “community.” Perhaps this is because most people are more open to a close knit mind-set during this time. Whatever the case, we should have an open heart and mind during this time of year. Whose to say we will see this same time next year?giving photo
  2. Giving/Sharing: Giving and sharing to others is something that should occur every single day of our lives. But again, the holiday season makes people more willing to give and be open to others who are in need. Giving does not have to consist of money or material wealth. Giving could mean helping a stressed mom with her mentally ill child, helping a caregiver pay a bill or go grocery shopping, or spending one-on-one time with a loved one who lives alone. Giving means giving the things that cannot be taken away, sold, bought, or broken.
  3. Embracing a “higher” purpose: What I mean by this is being open minded to seeing life differently than you are used to seeing it. For example, you might encounter a situation where for some reason you just feel closer to people and more open to them and their needs. Embrace this, don’t push it away because it seems “strange.” I’m of the firm belief that when you feel this way, you are opening your heart to someone who just might need someone else to care.
  4. Social responsibility: Social responsibility entails simple things such as being mindful of holding the door open for someone walking behind you, giving a few dollars to the homeless person asking for help, volunteering your time with the right intentions, genuinely praying for someone who is going through a tough time, saying “thank you” to someone how has done something for you, and/or sharing a simple smile with the person walking by you. Social responsibility means that you are being responsible for how things around you turn out. Think of people like Dr Martin Luther King, the Kennedy’s, or Ghandi. giving photo
  5. Peace of mind: The holiday season should be a time of year for you to have time alone to reflect upon major changes of the year, goals for the next year, and places you have been or would like to be. It should be a time for you to measure your experiences and determine if you are truly living the way you intend to. Do you want to simply live to make money, earn status, or gather more degrees and material wealth? Or would you rather live a balanced life of catering to your needs and the needs of your loved one’s while also being available to others? What about your spiritual life? Do you want to learn more about creation and Who is responsible for all the beauty around you? Do you want to be able to pull over in life and truly experience life, not just slide by each day?

I hope that you will remind yourself to embrace the most important things about this time of year. With all of the beautiful attractions of this holiday (such as the food, family, fun, laughter, friends, parades, traditions, decorations, music, etc.), we should be mindful  of those who are in need, even of basic essentials (love, family, shelter, food, employment, good mental and medical health, etc). We should also check our own hearts and conscience to ensure that we are not being self-serving during this time. Reach out! Give someone something that can never be replaced or taken away.

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!