Why We Celebrate The Act Of Giving Thanks

“Today we woke up with God’s grace,” mamá often said in mornings in which there was no money or food in our house. Although there was no big feast or holiday celebration, giving thanks was something that my grandmother did often. Especially when things were hard and we were lacking the bare necessities. She believed that even when we had nothing, we still had God’s grace and it was something to be grateful for.
Although I’m not a religious person, I do believe in the importance of being grateful and it is one of the values I’m passing down to my children. Giving thanks provides us with a perspective about our lives, what we have and how fortunate we are. Like mamá, I often express my gratitude for things that happen in my daily life; but on top of that I talk to my children about being grateful, and how the privileges they enjoy also come with certain responsibilities.

As we all know, the act of giving thanks is not exclusive to the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving as it is an ancient practice that has had many forms and rituals across centuries and cultures. Moreover, Native American people have different methods of giving thanks and have traditionally hosted community feasts and seasonal celebrations for thousands of years. That’s why, at home, we do celebrate the act of giving thanks, not a misguided retelling of history. 

Ever since I moved to the United States the celebration of Thanksgiving, as in giving thanks that is, has been my favorite to adopt. I think it offers us the chance to unite through the universal feeling of gratitude. Of course, it also provides a great opportunity to talk to our children about the history of the indigenous people, the hardship they have endured and how vibrant and alive their cultural practices are today. 

Giving Thanks On Thanksgiving Day And Beyond

As a mom, it is vital for me to teach my children to be grateful for the small and big things in life. Making sure they know that things that cost money are just that, and as cheesy as it might sound, the things that don’t have a monetary value are truly priceless. Giving thanks is an integral part of our lives at home, and having a holiday around gratefulness is something I love.

What we don’t do, however, is to tell our children a romanticized version of Thanksgiving, or call it “the first”. We take advantage of the holiday to talk to the kids about the indigenous people that live in North Carolina, where we live, and why within indigenous people you might find those who dislike the holiday, and others who choose to celebrate the act of giving thanks and perform ceremonies that pay tribute to their ancestors. We teach them to respect them all. 

Conversations about giving thanks and being grateful are everyday labor in our home. I point out the simple pleasures, like being able to laugh, run or eat icecream. Once the Thanksgiving holiday comes around, it is a celebration of what we do throughout the year, acknowledge what we have, how privileged we are to have each other, to have food to share and family and friends who love us. 

This is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Yes, of course, we have a delicious meal. We are Latinos, after all. Nothing better than to gather around the table to eat and be grateful for family, with music and games. However, we do it by being intentional about what we are really celebrating and passing on a tradition of gratefulness and not historical lies.

As a multicultural mom, another reason why we celebrate giving thanks during the Thanksgiving holiday is the cultural importance it has for my children. In my opinion, giving thanks is multicultural because it is a practice across cultures in different manners, also, as American born Latinos, it is a holiday that is very American and at the same time, very universal.

If you do celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have an amazing time with those you love the most and take some time to talk to your kids about the power of gratitude and giving thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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© Dania Santana ~ Embracing Diversity
Multiculturalism, Diversity & Inclusion Expert | Author | Speaker

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