November 1, 2020

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Christmas candles

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…


Families who are able to gather together for Thanksgiving are truly blessed this year. But many of us will find other ways to be thankful without a turkey!

I have a Thanksgiving tradition that people have told me is unusual, but, as a writer, it seems perfect for me.

Starting in 1987, I have written a letter (well, sometimes an email) every year, saying thank you to one or more people who made a difference in my life during the previous year. Most people are startled when they receive a Thanksgiving letter, and many have said that they began a Thanksgiving letter tradition of their own. We are all familiar with the “what’s new with us” Christmas letter, but this is very different. Sometimes it’s easy to decide who should get a letter. Sometimes it takes a little more thinking. But when you start thinking about being thankful, a name will eventually come to you.

I have almost always written these letters in a dark room in a silent household. There are fewer intrusions, and I am less likely to second guess myself about whether a message is “too emotional” or “uncomfortable.” I write from my heart, and no recipient has ever complained about these letters. So, I just keep going!

Today is November 5, so I still have some time this year. My tradition requires that the letter (or letters) has to be in the hands of recipients by Thanksgiving Day, which is November 26 (if you are in the United States). Our Canadian neighbors already celebrated Thanksgiving (October 12).

I have some readers in Australia and New Zealand, so I checked to see if they celebrate Thanksgiving. Answer: No, they don’t, and according to a great blog post, “This is quite understandable, given that Australia is a place where, back in the 1600s, there were plenty of kangaroos, but neither Native Americans nor Pilgrims.” However, Puerto Rico celebrates Thanksgiving by putting up a tree and kicking off the Christmas season (¡Wepa!)*

Back to the letter(s) I have to write this year! I wish I could send a personal thank you letter to all of the people who make it possible for us to keep going through this virus. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff. Grocery store personnel. Delivery drivers. They deserve my gratitude, and they certainly have it. And my prayers. But I’m still procrastinating on writing this year’s letter(s).

So how do I figure out who the recipient should be? I have some tricks that help a lot! Sometimes listening to Christmas music, smelling an evergreen potpourri, lighting a candle will remind me that it’s very easy to let special moments go by. Unless you’re always on the lookout for them, they come and go unnoticed.

But the sights and smells and sounds I associate with Christmas remind me to be thankful. Sometimes it’s just a small thing that I remember – a kindness that brought happiness. And sometimes, when I get it right, there’s a smile that gets to my face all uninvited.

The funny thing is that, just like Christmas itself always comes, so does a memory of thankfulness. And being thankful is a great way to prepare for the incredible thankfulness of Christmas!

*Please know that I am not a Spanish speaker, nor do I know the nuance of language in Puerto Rico. I tried to find a way to say, “Congratulations, Puerto Rico!” and this is what I found. If there is a better way to say it, I hope someone will let me know in the Comments!


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