Thanksgiving From Afar

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I don't care about birthdays even, but this one day has, for a long time, had a hold on me. I am not even truly sure what it is about this day that I like so well, but there it is. So, for the first time in my life, I find myself outside of the US leading up to and on Thanksgiving Day. I should note, I am not an incredibly (ok at all) patriotic, sentimental and/or traditional gal. The origins of Thanksgiving definitely put me off, but as so often happens with holidays, the morphing that it has taken over the years has made it something completely different for me. 

On Thanksgiving's past, I have started planning and getting all mushy about the holiday starting in October; specifically when all the epicurean magazines have their November issue out. I love nothing more than to read Saveur, Gourmet (when in press), Cooks Illustrated, Martha, Real Simple, Bon Appetit and even magazines I would never normally even glance at, just to get my fix of Thanksgiving planning. To say I love it is an understatement. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling and am the most positive I will ever be. Chill in the air, food to be planned out and consumed, enjoyment to be had.

Most years Zac and I would spend Thanksgiving alone. We had our own traditions of going to a yoga class, having a nice breakfast, going to a movie, if it was snowy enough in Minnesota, going snow shoeing or if not, hiking, and then sitting down to a bunch of "small bites" and likely some sort of cocktail. It was relatively the same every year. Some years we would go to my mother's house, sometimes we would be with friends. But generally speaking we would celebrate in the same way every year; and thus a tradition is born.

So, in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving this year, I found myself with no magazines, no small bites to plan, and basically no cold chill to give me the warm fuzzies. So one hot, humid day in Sri Lanka I started to feel home sick (for the first time since our travels began) and I started to cry (if you know me, you know this is VERY rare). Totally perplexed by these feelings, I started realizing that I was missing our tradition and missing how I felt about participating in this tradition. I saw friends' posts about prepping for their events and found that I felt very left out. I had stripped away everything I usually clung to for my favorite holiday.

One of the amazing Buddha statues in this temple.

One of the amazing Buddha statues in this temple.

Ugh, and it was so very hot. That same day we visited a Buddhist Temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was an amazingly serene and beautiful place. We took a moment and sat in front of a statue of the Buddha and I just had this thought. Thanksgiving, for me, is exactly what I make it. We all worry so much about crafting a "perfect" event that we cannot even stop to see what we are really taking part in. Here I am sad that I won't be doing the same thing I have done for years because I don't have a home and have removed my roots from Minneapolis.

But, what I do have is an opportunity to experience Thanksgiving from afar and see what this tradition looks like to the rest of the world. I have the opportunity to create a day filled with foods that are not at all associated with Thanksgiving and a day in which I can go swimming in the ocean or in our pool if I so choose. I have the ability to sit myself down and really be thankful for all the things that I have on this day (and everyday) and not think about all the things I don't have. So this was my epiphany in the temple.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday not because of the traditions, not because of the food and the pressure to perform and all the other trimmings that come along with American holidays, but because on this one day, I make sure I take a step back and remind myself of what I am thankful for in this life. That includes the difficult things too. So Happy Thanksgiving and may you have some bumps in your road to perfection (nothing that a little silent time of contemplation can't help you move through) and being grateful for them.

And maybe a little less cinnamon in the apple pie wouldn't hurt either.