What does Thanksgiving mean to you? That depends on who you ask I suppose. Ask a child what it means to them, and they will usually respond with all the adorable things they are thankful for, such as Mom, Dad, family pet, favorite dessert, and so on. Ask an adult and it is about Black Friday shopping, the stress and obligation of cooking a big meal, the endless chaos, and the beginning of yet another holiday season to drive your credit card bills up. That is not to say we adults are not thankful, we are, or most of us are anyway. And amid the stress of the holidays there are moments of joy spent with loved ones and memories made, which is why we continue to go through this year in, year out.
But what happens when you strip all the traditions away? No turkey or pumpkin pie, no running around to 2 or 3 different houses because most families are split these days, no Black Friday shopping, no Macy’s parade or football games. What are you left with?
This is a question I had to ask myself this year, the first year I have spent away from my family in all my 38 years of living. All that was familiar to me, is not present this year. I can’t find pumpkin anything here in The Netherlands, unless you are talking about fresh pumpkins which I am not even going to begin down that journey! I have no oven to bake in even if I did find that yummy Libby’s pumpkin pie in a can. So I had to change my way of thinking and expectations of Thanksgiving. I had to get to the root of what it was really meant to be.
All the traditions removed, all the favorite foods removed, what I am left with is only my gratitude. While I miss my family, miss the big Turkey dinner, and of course the best cranberry relish in the universe, I am thankful to experience this day in a new way. It is giving me a chance to look at what I am thankful for without all the trimmings. This year has been filled with lots of struggles and successes, laughter and tears, and more over lots of growth. This year, sans the pumpkin pie and cool whip, I am thankful for the people in my life that have loved me through all my stages no matter what, I am thankful for a well-rounded and strong, healthy daughter that has been through so much and still has a smile that lights up the world, I am thankful for all the opportunities living here in The Netherlands has given me this year. I am thankful for learning more about me in this past year, and experiencing personal growth.
Traditions are a sense of comfort, we cling to them because it is what we know and what we come to expect. When you take that away, it is like being kicked in the gut, at first. But then it is like a breath of fresh air. A chance to create something new, and still hold dear the memories of the past. This is a new Thanksgiving for me, in a country that doesn’t celebrate thanksgiving, and still I am reminded in this season that there is still so much to be thankful for, turkey not required.