Many Americans don’t know this, but the first recorded thanksgiving celebration in North America took place forty-three years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and was observed by Martin Frobisher, an English pirate/explorer. He was trying unsuccessfully to find a passage to China and India, and after leaving England with three small ships, encountered storms and ice. One ship was lost, another abandoned, and when they finally arrived safely on land in what is now Newfoundland, Canada, he was glad to be alive. So on May 27, 1578, Frobisher and his crew had a celebration of thanksgiving for their safe arrival.
Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving much like Americans, but they have their holiday the second Monday in October, which this year was on October 10th. And since we were on vacation in Newfoundland on this day, I’m writing this article as one who has already celebrated Thanksgiving once this year. On November 24th when most other Americans will celebrate the holiday for the first time in 2016 Patsy and I will be celebrating it for a second time!
Like Frobisher’s search for India, our Canadian Thanksgiving didn’t go as planned. The week before, we had passed a church in Clarenville, Newfoundland, that was putting up a sign: “Thanksgiving Turkey meal, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.”, and we thought that since we’d be back in the area on the Canadian Thanksgiving Day, we’d drop in. We were looking forward to celebrating with other Canadian Church Folk, and enjoying the turkey and whatever else Canadians eat for the holiday (poutine, maybe?).
But Thanksgiving Day in Newfoundland didn’t go as planned. Hurricane Matthew hit the island, and it rained all day. We made it to the Clarenville area just fine, even though we were stranded there because the only road crossing Newfoundland washed out. Still, we were looking forward to the 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner. But when we pulled into the church parking lot, no one was there. We apparently hadn’t stayed long enough for the entire sign to be erected. It actually read: “Thanksgiving Turkey Meal, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., on October 19th”. The dinner wasn’t for another week! So we had to find a restaurant open on a holiday and like much of life, we had to resign ourselves to things not going as planned.
But we still had a great time. We still were thankful. And I think that’s what Thanksgiving is really about.
We’re not thankful because our life flows smoothly, we’ve got lots of good things, and a feast sits on the table. We’re thankful regardless of the storms of life, our possessions, and our food. Gratitude is an attitude, and thankfulness flows from our heart, not our circumstances.
Habakkuk knew this when he wrote: Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NRSV).
We don't always embrace this kind of attitude, and I think that’s what the holiday of Thanksgiving is really about. We’re not thankful one day a year. We’re reminded one day a year to be thankful every day.
Our Canadian Thanksgiving didn’t go as planned and who knows if our U.S. Thanksgiving will. But regardless, I’m going to have more than two Thanksgivings this year. I’m going to have a helping of gratitude every day. And why not? I’m grateful in so many ways everyday for you, and for all the blessings that enrich my life. I hope you are grateful as well.
Yours in Christ;