Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. It means family union, appreciation, helping each other and sharing with each other.
I can’t think of a holiday that has a message as strong as Thanksgiving. You give, you share, you feel, you laugh, you cry, you eat, and you thank loved ones, and that is the beauty of Thanksgiving. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Iran, or any holiday similar to it, where the center of attention is on ordinary people. Thanksgiving is race-free, color-free, and religion-free, which brings a message that makes it so interesting even for immigrants like me. Thanksgiving brings another celebration to our family, and that is my husband and my youngest son’s birthdays on November 23 and 24.
Thanksgiving was the first holiday that I celebrated with my family in the United States. My brother moved to the U.S. in 1978, and then in November 1998 I was finally able to come To the U.S. to visit my brother and his family. It was a family reunion, which was completed with the birth of my youngest son. My son was born on November 23 and Thanksgiving was on November 25, the day I was discharged from hospital. We celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother’s house, and my sister in law prepared a warm, welcoming, and delicious Thanksgiving dinner. I remember a huge turkey in the center of the table, and mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, and cranberry sauce around it. We sat around the table for 3 hours, eating, talking, and recalling our old memories. That night was one of the best nights of my life.
Thanksgiving is the time that most American families come together to celebrate. When I came to the U.S., I noticed that many families have at least one or two members who live either in a different state, or in the same state but hundreds of miles away. That was very interesting for me because in Iran most children live close to their parents, even after they marry, and they have their own families. They are expected to help their parents whenever needed. That is why going home has a deep meaning in Iran, similar to the way it does in the U.S. If there is one day each year when food and family take center stage, it is on Thanksgiving.
“It is a holiday about “going home” with all the emotional content those
two words imply. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is always the busiest
travel day of the year in the U.S. Each day of the long Thanksgiving weekend,
more than 10 million people take to the skies. Another 40 million Americans
drive 100 miles or more to have Thanksgiving dinner. And the nation’s railways
teem with travelers going home for holiday,” (Pilmoth, 2012).
Thanksgiving is also about thanking and appreciating everything we have. Sometimes we get too busy with our daily lives to remind ourselves how blessed we are. For example, we have to be thankful for being healthy, for having food on the table, for having a house in which to live and for many other things around us. Thanksgiving is a good time to do that. We do that by thinking about those who are not as blessed as us. I remember when I worked at Shady Grove Hospital – every November, especially on Thanksgiving eve and Thanksgiving Day, people from various organizations, and even individuals who did not belong to any organization, visited the patients who were hospitalized for a long time, or patients who were homeless, or who had no family. Perhaps we can do that all year long but, if we have not, Thanksgiving is the reminder; it is the wakeup call of the year for remembering what we should be thankful for.
Another great thing about Thanksgiving is the tradition of giving and sharing. It starts with sharing food with each other. People donate money and food to local organizations like the Salvation Army; money that will be distributed to those who are in need. Some other people donate their time by volunteering at the food centers like Manna Food. While there, the volunteers organize and pack the donations, and make them ready for distribution on Thanksgiving eve or Thanksgiving Day.
At the time that many families either go to or host Thanksgiving parties – and enjoy sharing the food and happiness with their families and friends – many volunteers are on their way to deliver the prepared food for families in need. Poverty, illness, homelessness, and many other reasons may prevent individuals and families from preparing or buying Thanksgiving dinner. I remember every year, exactly one week before Thanksgiving, the volunteers at the volunteer office at Shady Grove Hospital were busy packing the donations, which were made by hospital’s employees. Helping with that process filled my heart with warmth and endless happiness.
“Make sure to thank God for religious freedom this Thanksgiving Day because God created us for freedom. And remember, religious freedom is good for all, so that all may be free,”(Colson, 2010).
Thanksgiving has a simple, secular, and universal message, and every one with different backgrounds, different religions, and different cultures can follow it. The message of joy, kindness, and thankfulness is not about race, color, religion, or gender; it is about every human being with heart and soul. In Iran, Ramadan is the month of giving and thinking about others, which is one month of fasting and prayers. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset for one month, with several time periods dedicated to prayers each day. They remember hunger and poverty in society by fasting, not by providing food for those who need it. Plus, Ramadan is deeply Islamic and minorities cannot, and do not, practice that. Fasting for one month is too hard for even some Muslims to practice. Ramadan is more about self-control, rather than helping others, and it is more about religion, rather than society.
Thanksgiving has a very special place in my heart because my husband and my younger son’s birthdays are very close to Thanksgiving, and sometimes on Thanksgiving Day. November 24 is my husband’s birthday and November 23 is my son’s birthday. We always have an extra celebration during our Thanksgiving party. Mostly, I host the Thanksgiving party instead of going to friend’s house, and in addition to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, I make my husband’s and my son’s favorite food. Another different thing about Thanksgiving in my household is the birthday cake. We serve pumpkin pie and a birthday cake. Ordering a birthday cake for Thanksgiving Day is almost impossible, and finding a normal, but fresh, birthday cake is very difficult. Having two birthdays at a same time as Thanksgiving is very special, and reminds me more about how blessed I am.
For many Americans, Thanksgiving celebration is not completed until they go shopping on Friday after Thanksgiving, which is called Black Friday. Many stores advertise cheaper prices on lots of items, and many people spend all Friday shopping at different stores. One of my friends completes her Christmas shopping every Black Friday. She has a list of items she needs, and a list of the stores that she wants visit. She thinks that she saves a lot of money, but I am not sure if I would rather do that. I think it is more about advertisement and how much retailors want to sell, and people think that they get a great deal, but it is just a good deal.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday that brings warmth and happiness to almost every American’s dinner table. Thanksgiving has taught me that I can share my happiness with other people without belonging to a specific race, religion, or group. In other words, I can be myself and still celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the best time of the year for families to get together, party, eat and even shop. As an immigrant, I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, and my community, and I am so proud of that.
I hope to continue to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I think it’s also important to remember to be thankful throughout the year, and not just on Thanksgiving Day. Each year I remind myself to not just be thankful on the day, and to carry the feeling with me. Being thankful can make a person happier, as they will appreciate the things that they normally overlook. Many families on Thanksgiving Day go around the dinner table and say one thing that they are thankful for. When I ask myself this question, it really makes me think, but, really, there is so much to be thankful for. In most people’s lives, they go through their days complaining, but that is no way to live.
Thanksgiving is not only a day for me to remember all of the things that I have that are so good; it is also a time for me to forget about all of the problems. If people learned to focus like this on the positives in life, then I think they would enjoy each day more. There would be less hate in the world, and people would learn to appreciate the little things that brighten their day. Try stopping when you are performing your everyday tasks, breathe the air and really feel it entering your lungs – isn’t it good and refreshing to have life? Doesn’t the air taste slightly sweet when you take the time to appreciate it? Taking things for granted is no way to live life. It is much better to make Thanksgiving Day a Thanksgiving year, or a Thanksgiving lifetime, because when you do, you will know what to be thankful for. So what am I thankful for? I’m thankful that we have a holiday where I can sit at a dinner table with my family and remind myself about how good life is.
Colson, Charles. Thanksgiving and Religious Freedom. YouTube.com, 2010. Web. 29 July 2012
Fuchs, Karl. More Than a Day Poemsource.com. Thanksgiving Poems, 2006. Web. 29 July
Pilmoth Plantation. Thanksgiving History, 2003-2012. Web. 29 July 2012