As I grow older, I find how narrow my adolescent worldview was. Thanksgiving was a holiday that I never thought about in a Global context. I knew how my family celebrated the holiday and that was all that was important to me. I didn’t actually care about how the holiday came to exist and it didn’t ever REALLY matter to me how others celebrated. I now laugh at my ignorance and appreciate that my worldview has expanded quite a bit.
Prior to the actual date of Thanksgiving, I celebrated the holiday with a dorm full of girls, the res life assistants that work there, and all of the other dorm subs that help out there. The dorm- Storchenblick. Eighteen beautiful girls, four incredible dorm staff workers (dorm parents and 2 RAs), and about ten dorm subs. I’m not sure, but I’m going to guess that about ten countries are represented in this lovely group of people.
Given the diversity of our large group, the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday was only loosely tied to the American holiday. The Black Forest Academy was founded by Canadians after all. Celebrating Thanksgiving between Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving seemed like a good way to focus on the meaning of the holiday, rather than the history of the holiday.
The history of the holiday mattered, however. You can see a picture of my friend, Elizabeth, reading the American thanksgiving story above. She reminded us of the origins of the holiday, while we all sat snuggled up next to one another on the living room couches. During the reading of our holiday tradition, I could only think about how the Thanksgiving story had been stretched, blown out of proportion, and polished. I don’t believe that religious freedom for early American settlers was as important as it has been made out to be. I know for a fact that many Native Americans were treated badly in the “discovery” of America. My conclusion? The pilgrims weren’t perfect. Yet, their celebration had an incredibly important truth in common with the Canadian thanksgiving. God had provided during a hard season of life.
All of the founders of this feast expressed a heart of thankfulness for God’s provision. They certainly didn’t eat as much as we do now. Nobody does! Thanksgiving is a day in which we are unified in thankfulness and gluttony. That last bit is more recent. The point has always been thankfulness.
During this holiday dorm celebration, I found my heart bursting with joy. I never thought that I would be celebrating Thanksgiving with Koreans, students from the Middle East, students from Russia, and adults from all over the US. What is even more incredible is the family bond that we share. I find this aspect of my faith most compelling to the outside world. I have sisters. My family is huge!
John 13:34, 35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Like the pilgrims, we aren’t perfect. We couldn’t even celebrate our love and thankfulness for what God has done without stuffing our faces. I will always treasure this feast though. I am incredibly thankful for God’s provision of community, laughter, good food, and a familiar celebration in the strange context of BFA.
Actual Thanksgiving Day
This year, a few of us decided to celebrate the holiday with a traditional Thanksgiving supper about the time our loved ones would be celebrating a Thanksgiving lunch, in the US. For a few of us, this holiday traditionally began with the annual Macy’s Day Parade on NBC. So, I ran to my friend Allison’s place after school. We quickly attached a laptop to her tv and pulled up a website that was streaming the parade. Thank goodness for technology!
While the parade played in the background, we put finishing touches on the meal and looked for creative ways to fit all of the guests that were soon to arrive at the table. The only space that could accommodate 8 adults, a table, and our feast was the hallway. After a couple of different ideas were tried and failed, we found that we could only make the space practical if we slid the table against the wall.
In the end, it didn’t really matter where we sat or what we ate. Our celebration was about being a family in the absence of our immediate families. The holidays are hard sometimes. They serve as a reminder that we are far away from the people that mean the most to us. Yet, we made the most of day. We spent the evening laughing and sharing the company of one another over a delicious meal, in a cramped hallway of a small German apartment.
At the age of 30, I feel that I finally understand what this holiday is all about. I look forward to continuing to expand my world view. Hopefully, I can learn how to cut back on the holiday gluttony in the process.