My wife loves getting ready for Christmas, starting her planning in August. Now it’s a week and a half to Thanksgiving, so she is in the thick of making Christmas cards. I’m fine with year round Christmas, even though some churchgoers definitely don’t want to hear any Christmas music before Thanksgiving is completely over. I would be happier, though, if we made Thanksgiving more of a season than a day.
Thanksgiving has focused especially on harvest—apples, pumpkins, squash and potatoes, many kinds of fruits and roots, and for many, of course, a turkey. In previous centuries, when the average citizen was living directly off the land, the preparation for Thanksgiving began in spring, when they planted seeds, the turkeys hatched, and the lambs gave birth. It continued through the summer and the early harvests, with prayers for enough rain and sun, and for freedom from blight or fire. And each day that the crops and critters thrived and laborers were healthy enough to keep working was another occasion to give thanks to the Source of Life and Growth.
In fact, in ancient Israel there were three major annual feasts, all of them for giving thanks. The Passover was to remember and give thanks for freedom from slavery in Egypt, yet it was also associated with the beginning of the barley harvest, and during Passover week they would bring the first fruits—sheaves of barley grain—to thank the Lord for the beginning of the harvest. Seven weeks later they celebrated with the first fruits of the wheat harvest, again giving thanks. Later, near the fall equinox, there was the feast of Ingathering, which was in some ways most like our Thanksgiving Day, bringing the harvest season to a close. We sing about bringing the first fruits of our land in November, even though by that time it is more often our last fruits.
Now Thanksgiving Day is almost here and we may be busy planning the service, practicing music, and maybe making plans for a family gathering. But along with those preparations we can practice giving thanks each day. Our sense of gratitude, like pumpkins or apples, can’t sprout up in a day, or be pulled out of year-long storage like Christmas decorations. Gratitude grows little by little, every time we say a blessing at a meal, or brag about our spouse, tell our children what we appreciate about them, or thank a friend for a kindness. It would be great if we could boost our thanksgiving this week to a higher level as we prepare for that day, and even better if we could keep it at a higher level all year round.