Thanksgiving has come around again, and to be honest, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. After emerging from the bomb shelters of 2020 into the blinding light of 2021, we’ve managed to find our paths again and adapt to this (ugh, we’re going to say it) ‘new normal’. The majority of the UAE’s population is vaccinated, serious covid cases have been steadily decreasing, Expo 2020 finally launched to great success, and travel opened back up meaning many of us have been able to see our loved ones after a long hiatus.
Looking back, we truly do have so much to be thankful for. Perhaps that is the very reason why this year, the November holiday should spill forth from the borders of North America to the lands beyond the West.
Originally, Thanksgiving was a celebration of the first feast from the first harvest that the pilgrims (the people who left their home country to find freedom in the ‘new world’) and indigenous peoples shared after they saved the new arrivals from near starvation. The peaceful feast was prepared by both people groups to give thanks for provision in the harvest and to honor new friendships.
That year was fraught with hardships for both groups. For the indigenous people, they had outsiders and foreigners invading their homeland with a new language, customs, religion, and way of living. For the pilgrims, they were escaping fierce oppression from their own country, and trying to survive in a land they did not know. The fact is, they would not have made it past that first year if it hadn’t been for the goodness and generosity of their new neighbors who, despite their differences, welcomed these strangers and extended a helping hand.
Not unlike that first Thanksgiving, this year has also been a time with much to be thankful for as we come into the harvest after a long, hard, and grueling year of rebuilding.
So yes, we should all celebrate Thanksgiving.
Traditionally in the US, Thanksgiving is one of those rare holidays that is celebrated by the entire population. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, where you come from, what you do, or who your family is, because giving thanks is a universal practice that can cross any division. Whether you are American, British, Iranian, Nigerian, Indian, or Emirati, we can all give thanks this year for something.
It’s about giving thanks for what we have, what we have learned, how we have grown, and who we have become.
As a foreigner in this land, we can give thanks to the locals who have graciously opened up their country to us, and to the leadership, who have shouldered our burdens and extended their acceptance and care to all of us, regardless of nationality, simply because we call this place home. We can give thanks for our families, and the warm, emotional embrace of a loved one whom we had been separated from for over a year.
We can give thanks for our friends who have laughed with us, cried with us, and held each other up with humor and empathy through the darkest days. We can give thanks for our health and the health of our loved ones – whether it is a clear PET scan after a year of fighting or the simple joy of living without illness another day, our health is something we should indeed be thankful for.
We can give thanks for our work, our purpose, our jobs. Even if the nights have been long as we try to gain back what was lost, we are still grateful we have the ability to provide for our family. We can give thanks for a new home, baby giggles, a dog’s love, blue skies, rainy days, the taste of strawberries, morning snuggles, and so many more gifts both small and large that make up the sum of our lives.
So as an American, I offer you this holiday, this misunderstood American holiday, to no longer be only for Americans or Canadians. Thanksgiving is for everyone. It’s not just about pilgrims and native Americans. It’s about humans loving humans, even those different from us. It’s about being thankful for Good Samaritans. It’s about celebrating a perseverance through a difficult time, overcoming each disaster together, and reaping a bountiful harvest. It’s about giving thanks for what we have, what we have learned, how we have grown, and who we have become. This Thanksgiving, perhaps as a species, we can take a lesson from the past and realize that kindness is a universal and age-old gift, and being thankful is a privilege we all share.