Choosing Gratitude

Since the infancy of this site, I was most excited about my plans for a Thanksgiving post, or,  this day which I lovingly refer to as, "The Cooking Olympics". This is one of my favorite days of the year, arguably the favorite day of the year, where I pour infinite care and passion into a day filled with cooking, food, family, holiday pre-gaming, harmony and...even more food. I had grandiose plans to share all of my favorite plant-based recipes, some staples, some progressive and experimental, that I had specially curated to celebrate this festive day. It wasn't until the last minute that I decided it might be more beneficial to honor this day with a slightly different post.

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Dana Point Turkey Trot, 2017.

Why? Well, for a number of reasons. The first might seem the most obvious. How can I celebrate Thanksgiving as a vegan? The other is a strong debate, particularly on social media, about the controversial foundations of Thanksgiving. The third, the notion that the idea of, "Giving Thanks", should not be limited to one day. And lastly, the growing consumerism of Thanksgiving. All of these issues flood my feeds with greater intensity the closer the holidays near and I would like to say, first and foremost, all extremely valid talking points. All very real, all very true, and all very much acknowledged. I thought, however, this might be a great opportunity to share why I continue to celebrate this day. 

I choose gratitude. 

 

I am by no means implying that those who oppose Thanksgiving are not grateful. I am simply stating that my intent and my focus that I apply to this day, lies in gratitude. While I'm not exactly a fan of these very intelligent birds being unnecessarily sacrificed for this day, my choice to live a vegan lifestyle is my own. I acknowledged some time ago, that I am a promoter, not an activist. I prefer encouragement over protest. There were years not too long ago, where I boasted the heaviest and most perfectly roasted turkey (true facts), so judgement is not a part of my repertoire here. Thanksgiving has never been about what is served on the table, but to be grateful that there is something on the table; to be shared and enjoyed with one another, whether it be family, friends, strangers, or providing to the less fortunate. I am very empathetic to the fact that this day can stir painful memories or deep feelings of loneliness and darkness in many (I have also lived in that place), in which case I have found that giving back can be a very effective remedy. For many years, to offset my personal struggles, I hosted Thanksgiving to acquaintances, their friends, neighbors, and anyone else who needed a positive place to commune and feel welcome. I'm a great cook, so everyone should enjoy it. Those years are still some of my most cherished memories.

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I, personally, have never celebrated Thanksgiving based off of historical events. And, my guess is, most Americans do so either anymore.  If we are all being completely honest, most of us either look forward to a day of rest, a day of family (or not, heh), a day of sports, a marathon of holiday movies, even shopping. I disagree that these are apathetic diversions to the harsher truths of our country's past. To the contrary. To me, I have chosen, with intent, to reassign Thanksgiving as a day of positivity, community, reflection, self-improvement and giving. And whatever that means to you and to your family, that is the correct way to celebrate. I have no clue who plays what in what sport on Thanksgiving Day, but I do know that it brings a lot of joy to other households and draws them together. That is the point. Someone else might think I'm crazy for running a race every year on Thanksgiving morning before I dive eagerly into my specially curated day. That's okay, it brings me laughter, accomplishment, and joy, all of which I share with a few hundred, like-minded, crazy strangers. That is also the point.

The Thanksgiving Plate, 2017.

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Dana Point Turkey Trot, 2018 

 

"Giving thanks should be something people do every day". Absolutely correct, but we don't. We try, but we are all guilty of losing sight of that in our daily struggles, stresses and environment. We are human. This day provides an opportunity to step outside of ourselves and be mindful to bring our gratitude back to the forefront of our hearts and our actions. For me, Thanksgiving serves as the kick-off to the holiday season, to set an intent of happiness and gratitude for the remainder of the year, when the impending chaos can threaten to upset even the most balanced of constitutions.

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...And more food.

 

And, of course, there exists the consumer aspect to Thanksgiving, much to the ire of many. I don't participate in Black Friday, which now seeps into Thursday, which now seeps into Cyber-Monday and all that jazz. It is not how I choose to celebrate the holidays. However, I know plenty of folks that consider this a festive sport for the entire family. And it makes me smile to see posts of friends engaging in their annual traditions, sharing in joy and laughter. I may not participate or even agree with the hyper-consumerism of the holidays, but I can put the proverbial torch of protest down for a moment and support someone else's version of holiday happiness. 

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Holiday Ready, 2018

 

Imagine what Thanksgiving Day would look like to you, if it were filled with joy and harmony and service to others, in lieu of any negative connotations. Would you change anything about how you celebrate, and if so, would you incorporate positive and constructive changes? Choosing gratitude over criticism, celebrating diversity via unity, over judgement.  

Happy Thanksgiving!