People around the world love and cherish their traditions, don’t they? Our work among the African refugees here made me reflect on this. Particularly on Thanksgiving traditions around the world. Many nations, like Italy, don’t celebrate it, while others do, or at least have harvest celebrations.
Like the Nigerians with their traditional Thanksgiving, known as the Festival of Yams. Yams are their most common food, and the first crop they harvest. In true African style, the days-long celebration consists of thanking God, ceremonies, and traditional dances, each of which recounts a unique story.
But the special part of a Nigerian Thanksgiving, and that which most struck me, is the offering.
Nations like Ghana and Nigeria really grasped the Thanksgiving spirit after the Americans introduced them to it. And now entire villages unite to share their bounty with the poor. Each family brings an offering of food or money, which they later distribute to the village poor. What a wonderful way to not only express our gratitude, but to share our blessings with others!
It seems anymore that Thanksgiving is more about getting and gorging, than gratitude and sharing.
Especially with Black Friday. How sad though, that the nation which birthed this special holiday is straying so far from those roots. Many people feel lonely and forgotten at the holidays. But by making gratitude and sharing the heart of Thanksgiving, we can do something about it! Like many churches in the USA and Canada do, by giving food baskets or feeding the needy.
If you’d like to keep gratitude and sharing at the heart of Thanksgiving too, try these ideas!
1: Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
It’s great to invite a lonely person or family over for dinner. But working at a soup kitchen is a way of reaching out to even more! But don’t leave that lonely person or family out. Invite them to go with you!
2: Visit a hospital.
Imagine how depressed someone could feel laying in a hospital for the holiday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a little something to pass out in one of the wards? Not food, because medical personnel don’t usually approve of that. But something else to cheer them up. Like flowers or magazines, or balloons for the children’s ward.
3: Give an anonymous gift.
In these hard times, many people have a hard time making ends meet. Perhaps we could show the Thanksgiving spirit by eating a normal, inexpensive meal, and use the money we would have spent to buy groceries for a needy family for groceries, or to pay their utility bill. Or if everyone you know is doing well, donate it to a local food pantry.
4: Visit a senior center.
When our children were small, we often took them along to visit senior centers. The residents particularly enjoyed the life and vitality children bring. So many of them either have no one at all, or no family nearby. Wouldn’t a visit make their day?
Special times with family are so meaningful — and to be cherished.
So keep your own family celebration. But consider moving it perhaps to another day or time. And remember to look beyond the family circle. If we want to teach kids to think of others and share, example counts a lot more than mere talk or theory.
Invite some lonely or needy people to your own family celebration! Involve them in giving thanks around the table. And then invite them to partake of your new outreach. This will put the GIVING back into ThanksGIVING. And create special memories for family and friends, while giving holiday cheer to lonely, needy people too!
We’ve found that sharing creates greater joy, giving us twice as much to be thankful for!
Happy Thanksgiving from Italy!