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Making Thanksgiving Meaningful and Memorable

Posted: October 21, 2010

I've decided to post this blog early because I hope that it may inspire readers to think ahead and plan for a truly memorable Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving is that time of year that many of us have been brought up with under particular tradition. Sometimes tradition is a fine bit of nostalgia that we cherish as we look back on life. Time spent with family and the traditional Thanksgiving dinner can be quality time. But, maybe not every year and for many it can tend to become burdensome.

It's all good, but to be honest, my best Thanksgivings have been those I have spent being thankful in my own way. Sometimes spending it with family is just how I like it. Other times it isn't. Unfortunately, as most (as I call them) 'Hallmark Holidays', tradition is pushed on us as we are brought up. The magazine advertisements and television commercials seem to paint the whole experience as a cozy cabin in the woods with close family, a fire in the stone fireplace, and a hot turkey steaming fresh from the oven placed on deep red and green plaid tablecloths. That simply isn't always the reality.

Thanksgiving to me is to be spent being thankful for everything and everyone you have in your life but most importantly spending time being thankful for connection to Self and being conscious in our reality.

Some of the best Thanksgiving holidays I have ever spent were those spent either by myself or with no set plans. Once you release yourself from guilt caused by pressures from those who expect you to be in a particular place at a particular time, then you are free to decide for yourself how you want to spend the day in appreciation for what is important to you.

PhotoFor example, when I was in high school on one particular Thanksgiving my parents decided to spend the holiday in California with my aunt and uncle. My sister had moved out of the house being that she was in college. I found myself alone for the holiday. Just a day or two before Thanksgiving day I received a telephone call from my brother John and his girlfriend Susan. They called me to suggest that they travel from the other side of Wisconsin to my home at the time in La Crosse. They thought they would join me and we might take a day hike in Perot State Park located about an hours drive north in the town of Trempealeau, Wisconsin. I accepted their invitation and within a day they were there to join me.

On Thanksgiving, as we had decided earlier, we drove to Perot State Park. The park is located on the Eastern bank of the Mississippi River and is a gorgeous area for hiking the bluffs and valleys of the area.

Being November it was cool. Leaves covered the ground and the air was crisp and fresh. The higher bluffs were shrouded in gray cloud cover.

We had packed our Thanksgiving meal consisting of Wheat Thins, Granny Smith Apples and a few other light snacks. It was perfect.

That day we ascended a high bluff and sat on the cliffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. As we sat enjoying the view, with the cool breeze blowing across our chilled faces, a giant owl soaring over head appeared out of the thick cloud cover for just moments and then disappeared into the mist. We sat there for about an hour enjoying our meal and in awe of the beauty. It was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I have ever had and will always be something I remember.

After our meal we hiked down a back trail into a wooded valley. The leaves were thick on the ground. Their exposed surface was dry from the cold winds but the underside was still wet from rain, making the decent a bit precarious. We all slipped and slid down the hill on the leaves laughing and joking about the moment.

That day became a benchmark for Thanksgivings for me. Though every Thanksgiving holiday since has been enjoyed, I can not say that since that time I have stuck by my own standards and rather have felt as though I have made decisions at times based on guilt caused by what (I felt at the time) was pressure.

As time has passed, the Hallmark Holidays have come and gone but the ones that have stuck out in my mind are those that were really special. The special ones were generally the ones where I did what I wanted to do to celebrate rather than what I felt someone else wanted of me.

The holidays are said to be a time of giving. I agree with that, however, when there is an obligation to commit it really is no longer the spirit of giving. When the media tells us how to spend the day, with whom, and what to eat and give, it is no longer tradition or nostalgia. It is conformity.

Do with your Thanksgiving day as you wish. Then, when you are satisfied with your freedom, consider giving to those whom you feel you would like to extend your gratitude. It will come from the heart when you do, and that time with family, friends, or even strangers will be truly a memorable giving experience.

With gratitude,


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