Gratitude and the Holidays

As Americans and people all over the world know very well, the months of November and December are chock full of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Hanukkah, just to name a few, and some of these are religious holidays. Throughout the holidays the world asks for gratitude in many ways. This month, BMPC youth members were asked to respond to this prompt: During the holiday season, what family traditions are your favorite and how does your family express gratitude? What are the similarities and differences between how you express gratitude on Thanksgiving vs. how you express your gratitude to God all year? Here are their responses:

Lexi McCracken (8th grader)

There are many traditions that my family and I enjoy. To kick off the Thanksgiving traditions we usually play a game of football, which is my favorite tradition. Once the game is finished, we sit down to enjoy the dinner that my mom and uncles have cooked. Before we eat, we show our gratitude by saying one thing we're thankful for and praying for everyone's health and safety. These acts of gratitude are also reflected when we are at church.

Paul McConnell (12th grader)

We go to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and eat dinner with our cousins. We go around the table and we say what we are thankful for. During the pandemic, for obvious reasons, we had to form new traditions. Now I have Thanksgiving dinner with just my immediate family, but we still go around the table to share what we are thankful for. Our Thanksgiving gratitude compares to our everyday gratitude as Christians because many of our reflections at the dinner table are similar to the ones we express to God in our everyday life. 

Maeve Daley-Gibson (9th grader)

Every year my family goes to my Grandma’s lake house. We’re there for much of the summer and then return at various points throughout the year for different holidays. When we visit the lake at Thanksgiving the weather is much colder, but one thing is the same – we swim. We call it the Polar Bear Plunge. My dad makes a large fire near the shore. Almost everyone swims, jumping into the water, even though it’s icy at the outskirts. The water is so cold it feels like a burn. I splash frantically through the lake and back to the fire to experience the profound joy of heat after cold, warmed again by the fire with my family.

Sometimes I think the pain from the plunge helps me to be more grateful, as if by getting a sip of discomfort I feel even luckier. I have many things to be thankful for. The presence of my family, whom I love dearly, reminds me that everything I have is truly special. I don’t know why or how God put me in such a fortunate place, but I know that what I do have is such a blessing to me. As a Christian, I give thanks frequently in church. The difference between the intermittent thanks at church and the thanks I give on Thanksgiving is simply how much more thankful I feel. I’m deeply grateful for Thanksgiving and the moment it provides to evaluate and move forward, feeling grateful and prepared for the future. Thank you Thanksgiving, thank you lake house, thank you polar bear plunge, and most importantly, thank you, family.

Nina Bertrand (9th grader)

Over the break, I had a small Thanksgiving dinner with my mom and two brothers. I think it brought me closer to God because I saw that we could still have God’s presence with us even if we didn’t have everyone over for a big celebration.