When one of my American friends invited me over for a Thanksgiving dinner, I said “YES!” without even thinking, because her husband makes the best pumpkin pie ever, which is apparently a tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday. As we don’t have an equivalent of this particular day in Turkey, I wanted to learn more about it, and here is what I found:
Thanksgiving in the States is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It dates all the way back to 1621, to a time of celebration after the Pilgrims had had their first successful harvest in the new land of America. The feast was attended by both the newcomers and American Indians, and it was a time of giving thanks for blessings received.
I really like this story, but more than that, I love the idea behind it: giving thanks and being thankful. Recently, I’ve been reading books about “thanksgiving” and contemplating what it means to be thankful and why it even matters. It turned out to be a way deeper topic than I could have possibly imagined. What if I were to tell you that Thanksgiving is the key to a fuller and more meaningful life, would you think I was being crazy as usual? Well, hear me out first, and you’ll be the judge.
As a lover of archaic words, I wanted to see the Greek equivalent of “thanksgiving,” and one word I found was “eucharisteo.” It’s a word with religious connotations, for sure, but etymologically it’s really interesting. The Greek words “chara” and “charis,” which mean “joy” and “grace” respectively, are hidden in this word. Now, don’t you think it’s beautiful, or am I the only one who’s impressed by these little word plays?
After that point, I started to ponder upon whether being thankful is really the key to a joyful life. I don’t consider myself to be a deep thinker, nor do I pretend to be a philosopher, but I know this is important. Whenever someone asks me what I expect from my future, I don’t think of being rich or famous. I simply want to live a happy, joyful and meaningful life. I want my life to be “full,” but not with objects. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks that way, as I’ve received the same answer from people around me; we all want to live happily ever after.
Knowing that, I had to find an answer to this question, and thus started my experiments. First, I had to figure out what it means to be thankful. It’s easy to be thankful when I get a good grade on one of my midterms, for instance, or when someone gives me a present. These are moments we usually can’t miss, but are they really enough? Those “big” things don’t happen to me often enough to make me happy constantly. So, I started to look for smaller moments, things that I hadn’t considered to be very important before. I set out on a journey of writing them down in a notebook — the result was amazing! I’d never known that my life was filled with those little, joyful moments. The smell of coffee, trying Gingerbread Latte for the first time (yes, I’m probably addicted to coffee), my mugs, bookmarks and colorful pens…I had appreciated all these things before, but never on this level, and to be honest with you, ever since I began to write them down, my life has become more cheerful than ever.
Now, here comes the best part. Being thankful for those small “gifts” of life actually slows time down. It doesn’t add one more hour to your day, but it somehow expands time. If you are like me, always running around, trying to catch up with life, you know how precious time is. However, I never once thought that I was the one making time “less” than what it was. Once I initiated that thanksgiving process, I also began to be more present in the moment. It’s surprising how much one can discover through simple acts of awareness and appreciation. That reminds me of the words a Buddhist monk once spoke: “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
As Thanksgiving is coming soon, I sincerely hope that you’ll start your own journey of attentiveness, awareness, appreciation and thankfulness. Marcel Proust says, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Extend the reach of this quote from “people” to “everything,” and you will eventually have a soul blossoming with joy, and a life more meaningful than it was before.
P.S.: A quick word I repeatedly remind myself of: Please don’t get all suicidal because of endless papers, assignments and midterms. Instead, take an initiative to start your own thanksgiving journey. Needless to say, I’d love to hear your experiences concerning that! Don’t hesitate to send me an email!