In Canada, we celebrate our Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. It’s the day where we give thanks for our family, friends, and provision. Many people mistakenly believe that our Canadian Thanksgiving is just a copy of the American Thanksgiving holiday. Canadians do share many of the same traditions as our neighbours to the south – a turkey dinner, football, and gathering together with friends and family. However, the roots of our day of thanks differ.
Canada traces its first thanksgiving ceremony to Martin Frobisher, an Arctic explorer in 1579. Frobisher set aside a day to give thanks after a harrowing expedition. Since then, Canadians annually set aside a day to give thanks for all of life’s blessings. It wasn’t until 1931 that politicians finally agreed that Canadians should give thanks on the same day across the nation. The wheels of political machinery turn slow. It wasn’t until twenty-five years later that parliament made the following declaration. “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the second Monday in October.”
I believe it is only right that Canadians set aside a day for Thanksgiving long before our neighbours to the south. Although many comedians poke fun at our national pastime of politeness, I can usually sense an underlying admiration for this Canadian quirk in their humour.
Giving thanks plays a massive role in our culture of politeness. We teach Canadian children from infancy to say thank you when it is appropriate. For most Canadians, it is always necessary to say thank you and to express that gratitude with sincerity. We carry our expressions of appreciation well past our homes and into the world. We thank our waitresses, our bank tellers, the cashiers at the grocery store and the guy who changes our oil. We thank the person who holds the door open for us, and we give a friendly nod of thanks to those who let us into traffic. We even thank the dentists who pull our teeth and the doctors who perform painful procedures.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 -“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
One Sunday, I joined a group of friends for lunch at a busy restaurant after our morning service. One of my friends brought along a guest who she had invited to our church that day. After quietly observing his fellow table mates as we received our meals, he protested that Canadians say thank you way too often.
He felt that words of thanks to those who served us should be used only as rewards for exemplary service. To show our gratitude for such routine tasks as refilling our coffee mugs would lessen the effect of those words, he asserted. He went on to say, “A generous tip was all that was necessary to express thanks to the waitress.”
Although I disagreed with his statement, I felt it was not the time or place to say anything as I had never met this person before. Another Canadian quirk. We usually avoid confrontation at all costs. I also needed to reflect on his statement for a while to understand why I disagreed with him.
I could be wrong but I think he fell victim to the same sense of entitlement that is so prevalent throughout the western world. Before he would acknowledge our waitress’ presence, she had to prove that she was worthy of his attention. Only then would he extend any common courtesy to her. In his mind’s eye, she was just a faceless carrier of his food and drink.
Philippians 2:3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Living a thanksgiving lifestyle protects us from such a sense of entitlement. Giving thanks helps us to remain in the posture of humility. Giving thanks reminds us that without the help of others and the blessings of God, we would sorely lack.
There is no doubt, living a thankful lifestyle has definite documented psychological benefits. However, our expression of thanks must be expressed from a genuinely grateful heart and not just by a need to conform to societal expectations.
As I am an older single and my family is quite far away, I spend most Thanksgivings alone. I have to admit that it can be a struggle to walk my talk of gratitude. However, I determine to give thanks for all the Lord has given me, even during lonely holidays. If I don’t, bitterness, resentment, and hypocrisy will come knocking on my door. God reminds me of this truth. Thanksgiving should be the default expression of a Christian’s heart. Therefore, my obligation to be grateful is not dictated by my circumstances.
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Until Next Week,
©2019 Katherine Walden
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