I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving as a specifically American holiday because of the story behind it: In the year 1621, 53 Pilgrims invited about 90 Native Americans to join them in a feast to celebrate God’s goodness, his faithfulness and his providence. The celebration lasted three days. We can look back at this event as one of the brightest moments in early American history.
However, if you say that Thanksgiving is specifically an American holiday, our friends to the north will disagree with you. By friends to the north, I don’t mean people living in Oregon or Washington. I mean Canada. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving each year; in fact their Thanksgiving tradition dates back even further than ours, to the 1500s.
And if you say that Thanksgiving is specifically a North American celebration, some of our friends to the south will disagree with you. And by south, I don’t mean Mexico. I mean South America, specifically Brasil. In Brasil, Thanksgiving isn’t a national holiday, but many churches celebrate it on the same day we do, having a special worship service based on theme of thanksgiving.
Steve May, a missionary to Brazil points out the following, “There’s something I really like about the name they use for this special day in Brasil. It’s called ação de graças (axsohn de grahsas) which means, literally: action of thanks. It’s the same in French speaking Canada. Thanksgiving is called Jour de l’Action de grâce, which means, literally, the day of the action of thanks.”
Do you know what I like about the French-Canadian and Brasilian name for thanksgiving? They both contain the word action. They’ve got it right. Thankfulness is an action. Sometimes we have a misunderstanding about what it means to be thankful. We tend to think that it is a feeling. So many times I’ve heard people say, “It’s not that I don’t feel gratitude or appreciation, it’s just that I’m not very good at expressing it.” If that’s the case, your appreciation doesn’t do anyone much good. Gratitude not expressed is the same as no gratitude at all. So, in order to be truly thankful, we need to practice more than thanks-feeling, we need to practice thanks-doing.
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)
“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4)
Oh yea…Happy Thanksgiving!