What’s the purpose of Canadian Thanksgiving?
From The Canadian Encyclopedia:
The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in what is now Nunavut. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who, according to explorer Richard Collinson, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places [sic].”Mills, David et al. “Thanksgiving in Canada”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 05 July 2019, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day. Accessed 13 October 2019.
The article makes it clear that “Thanksgiving” has many meanings above and beyond harvest celebrations and Pilgrim landings. It’s a time to thank—god, or your lucky stars—for health and for survival, for whatever prosperity we have, for family and friends, for peace, for democracy and freedoms—for somehow muddling through this crazy life that is given to us.
In the past year I’ve survived fraudsters, tight finances, more crazy roommates and my sixty-fourth birthday, and somehow I just keep going.
I have good friends, resilience, a sharp mind, the music of Beethoven; memories both tender and terrible, all of which remind me I’ve had, and still have, a fairly extraordinary existence in one of the countries that’s most blessed with wealth and goodwill.
I’m gay, and I won’t be arrested or put to death for that. I could marry my partner, if I wanted to, and if I had a partner. I have food to eat, a place to live. I have skills that have directed my life down interesting pathways: playing the piano at a professional level, teaching music; actor and cabaret artist in London and Bonn and Amsterdam; shiatsu therapy/ bodywork/massage; photography and visual art; creative writing. On top of all that, most of the time I held down day jobs!
And I’m sixty-four and still look good enough that people don’t run from me, screaming.
I spend far too much time complaining, going over old hurts, nursing my wounds, worrying, regretting. Thanksgiving is a time to recall that much of life is in the attitude we take, simplistic though it sounds.
In Québec, Thanksgiving is celebrated much less than in other provinces of Canada, given the Protestant and Anglo origins of the holiday. The Québec version of Thanksgiving is “Action de grâce.” This is a beautiful rendering, which reminds me that grace means to be given something for no reason and that to be gracious means in part to be generous, munificent. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve, providence, safety that we didn’t earn. Grace means to be an infant again, held protectively; to dive off the pier and trust the waves to catch us.
Twyla Tharp, the American choreographer, thinks that you can create luck. The way to do this, she states, is to be generous. When you’re generous, you’re someone else’s good luck! Without watching and waiting for it, you can be certain one day that generosity will return to you. I find this a lovely concept.
Be generous! Not just with money. With time, with love, with listening, with sharing a meal, with advice and mentoring, with commitment.
This Thanksgiving, give a thought to the refugees of the world: the homeless, hungry and displaced, who are suffering because of wars, famines and natural disasters.
That we are not refugees is an accident of birth, statistically improbable.
Yet here we are.