Most everyone knows that I love Thanksgiving; I have adopted it as one of my favorite holidays. Perhaps I like that, compared with the bright colors of other holidays, Thanksgiving exists in neutral tones and incorporates many natural materials--visually it is more my style. Perhaps I like that it's a simple enough holiday that I can imprint my own meaning on it without feeling like "this" is what it's supposed to mean to me. Or perhaps I simply like it because it's become my project: for the past several years, I've been doing a good amount or even almost all of the food preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.
So this past Thanksgiving, I really felt like the theme of the day was hospitality. People say that Thanksgiving is about taking time to appreciate what you have--and while that is certainly a good thing to do, it is also something that should be part of every day life. So when you sit around telling everyone to say what they're thankful for, you're telling them to think about themselves, to look inward. That's not a bad thing, and yet it can come across as . . . less gracious than it's supposed to be. Your thoughts turn inward when holidays are a chance to turn your thoughts outward.
When I said that Thanksgiving felt like a day of hospitality, of course I was referring in great part to the food. Feeding other people is something special, whether you're cooking the whole dinner, bringing a dish, or helping serve. Inviting people into your home, or accepting an invitation into someone else's home, or choosing a meeting place is special. Receiving others is special.
And I think that that's the spirit of Thanksgiving--and indeed of many holidays. Receiving other people is rooted in respect for others, and this is something so deep and so important that we must not forget it. When you give thanks, after all, for what you have, that action allows you to share your life and your blessings with others. When you begin with peace in yourself, you spread that peace.
It is fitting, as well, that we prepare our hearts in particular to receive others as we move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season.