Thanksgiving is a time traditionally associated with gratitude, togetherness, and festivities. However, it can also be a time of mixed emotions, hesitations, and even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for some individuals. In this blog, we will explore the various emotions people may face during this holiday season, discuss the impacts of SAD, and emphasize that it’s perfectly okay not to celebrate Thanksgiving if you choose not to. We will also provide creative alternatives for celebrating the day and suggest new traditions for those in long-distance relationships.
Emotions and Hesitations Surrounding Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving can evoke a wide range of emotions and hesitations, which are essential to acknowledge and address.
Loneliness: One of the most common emotions during Thanksgiving is loneliness. For those who are far from family or friends, or who have lost loved ones, the holiday can be a poignant reminder of their absence.
Pressure to Conform: There’s often societal pressure to celebrate Thanksgiving in a traditional way, which can create hesitations for those who do not want to participate in a manner that feels forced or inauthentic.
Financial Stress: Preparing a Thanksgiving feast and buying gifts can strain finances, leading to stress and worry, especially for those on a tight budget.
Family Conflicts: Thanksgiving gatherings can sometimes lead to family conflicts and emotional tension, making people apprehensive about attending family events.
Grief and Loss: For individuals who have experienced recent loss or trauma, Thanksgiving may trigger grief and sadness, as they grapple with the absence of loved ones or disrupted traditions.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Its Impact
SAD is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, often during the fall and winter months when days are shorter and there is less natural sunlight. While not exclusive to Thanksgiving, SAD can significantly affect how people experience the holiday season. Symptoms of SAD may include feelings of sadness, fatigue, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating. SAD can affect those who are in colder climates where the days seem dreary and it may be harder to go outside due to the weather. It can also affect the mood and wellbeing of those in warmer climates who may not feel the ‘seasonal bliss’ as the weather isn’t snowy, adding to the feel of the holidays.
The impact of SAD on the holiday season can exacerbate the emotions and hesitations mentioned earlier. It may make it even more challenging for individuals to engage in holiday activities, connect with others, or find joy in traditional celebrations.
It’s Okay Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving
First and foremost, it’s essential to remember that it’s entirely okay not to celebrate Thanksgiving or any other holiday if you do not wish to. The pressure to conform to societal expectations can be overwhelming, but it’s crucial to prioritize your mental and emotional wellbeing. If Thanksgiving does not align with your values, beliefs, or current circumstances, it’s perfectly acceptable to opt out or find alternative ways to spend the day.
Creative Alternatives for Celebrating Thanksgiving
For those who choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional manner, here are some creative alternatives to consider:
Volunteer: Spend the day giving back to your community by volunteering at a local shelter, food bank, or charity organization. Helping others can be a fulfilling way to spend the holiday.
Nature Retreat: Escape to nature for a day of hiking, camping, or simply enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. Nature can provide solace and tranquility during this time.
Cook a New Cuisine: Experiment with cooking a cuisine you’ve never tried before. Explore new recipes and flavors from around the world to create a unique dining experience.
Art and Creativity: Channel your emotions into creative activities like painting, writing, or crafting. Expressing yourself through art can be therapeutic and enjoyable.
Self-Care Day: Dedicate the day to self-care and relaxation. Take a long bath, read a book, practice mindfulness, or indulge in your favorite hobbies.
Explore Local Culture: Discover and immerse yourself in the culture of your local community. Visit museums based on what’s open in your area, attend cultural events, or explore new neighborhoods.
Game Night: Invite friends or neighbors over for a game night filled with board games, card games, or even video games. Laughter and camaraderie are guaranteed.
Movie Marathon: Have a movie marathon featuring your favorite films or a specific genre. Create a cozy atmosphere with blankets and popcorn.
Learn Something New: Use the day to learn a new skill or take an online course. Whether it’s a new language, instrument, or hobby, personal growth is a valuable way to spend your time.
Practice Gratitude: Even if you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, you can still embrace the spirit of gratitude. Write down the things you’re thankful for and reflect on the positive aspects of your life.
New Traditions for Long-Distance Relationships
Maintaining relationships, especially long-distance ones, can be challenging during the holiday season. Here are some new traditions you can begin to nurture and celebrate your long-distance relationships:
Virtual Thanksgiving Dinner: Arrange a virtual Thanksgiving dinner with your loved ones using video conferencing, Facetime, or even Instagram Live. Share recipes and cook together while catching up on each other’s lives.
Letter Exchange: Start a tradition of exchanging heartfelt letters or handwritten cards with loved ones. Reading physical letters can be a deeply personal and cherished experience.
Shared Playlist: Create a collaborative playlist on a music streaming platform. Each person can add songs that remind them of the others, creating a unique playlist that represents your bond.
Online Games: Play online games together using platforms like Steam, Xbox Live, or mobile apps. Many multiplayer games allow you to connect and have fun from afar.
Virtual Movie Night: Pick a movie or TV series to watch together virtually. Use streaming services that offer synchronized viewing, or simply start the movie at the same time and chat about it afterward.
Cook and Share Recipes: Exchange recipes for your favorite dishes and cook them simultaneously while video chatting. It’s a delightful way to bond over food, even when miles apart.
Book Club: Start a long-distance book club with friends or family members. Choose a book to read together and schedule regular discussions or video chats to share your thoughts.
Online Workshops: Participate in online workshops or classes together. Whether it’s learning a new language, taking a painting class, or mastering a skill, the shared experience can be both fun and educational.
Memory Sharing: Create a shared digital album or document where everyone can contribute memories, photos, and stories. It’s a beautiful way to document your journey together.
Virtual Gratitude Circle: Establish a tradition of sharing what you’re thankful for through a video call. Expressing gratitude together can strengthen your emotional connection.
How is Thanksgiving celebrated around the world?
Thanksgiving is primarily a holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada, each with its own unique traditions and customs. However, there are other countries that have similar harvest festivals or days of thanks, although they may not be identical to the American or Canadian Thanksgiving. Here are some ways Thanksgiving is celebrated around the world:
Canada: Canadian Thanksgiving, often referred to as “Action de grâce” in French-speaking regions, is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Similar to the American Thanksgiving, it is a time for families to come together, enjoy a feast, and express gratitude for the harvest and blessings of the past year. The foods served are similar to those in the United States, including turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.
Grenada: In Grenada, a small island nation in the Caribbean, they celebrate Thanksgiving on October 25th. This holiday is unrelated to the American or Canadian versions and commemorates the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983. It is a time to remember those who lost their lives during the conflict.
Liberia: Liberia, a country in West Africa, celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday in November. This tradition is rooted in the country’s history as a colony for freed American slaves. Liberians celebrate with church services, feasts, and activities similar to those in the United States.
Norfolk Island: This Australian territory in the South Pacific celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday in November. It is reminiscent of American Thanksgiving, with families coming together for a big meal, though it is not an official public holiday.
Germany: Germans celebrate “Erntedankfest,” a harvest festival, which is similar in spirit to Thanksgiving. It takes place on the first Sunday in October. People attend church services, decorate with grains and produce, and enjoy a meal featuring locally harvested foods.
Japan: While not a Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, Japan has a Labor Thanksgiving Day, called “Kinrō Kansha no Hi,” on November 23rd. It’s a national holiday to express gratitude for labor and production. People often participate in parades and cultural events.
South Korea: South Korea celebrates a holiday called “Chuseok,” which is a major harvest festival. It usually takes place in September or early October, depending on the lunar calendar. Families gather, share ancestral rituals, and feast on traditional foods like songpyeon (rice cakes) and seasonal vegetables.
Ghana: In Ghana, “Homowo” is a harvest festival celebrated by the Ga people. It occurs between May and August and involves rituals, dancing, and feasting. The name “Homowo” means “hooting at hunger,” signifying a bountiful harvest season.
Australia: While Australia does not celebrate Thanksgiving, they do have a similar holiday called “Harvest Festival” or “Harvest Thanksgiving.” It is often celebrated in churches and schools as a way to give thanks for the harvest and is not an official public holiday.
The Netherlands: Although not a Thanksgiving celebration per se, the Dutch celebrate “Dankdag” (Day of Thanks) on the first Wednesday in November. It is a Christian holiday during which people attend church services and offer thanks for the harvest.
While these celebrations may share some similarities with American or Canadian Thanksgiving, each country’s traditions are unique and influenced by its own history, culture, and values. They all emphasize gratitude for the harvest and blessings, making them special occasions to come together with family and friends.
Remember, it’s entirely okay not to celebrate Thanksgiving or any other holiday if it doesn’t resonate with you, your beliefs, or your traditions. Instead, decide what feels good for you for the day. Should you be inclined, you can consider creative alternatives that bring you joy and fulfillment, and explore new traditions to nurture any long-distance relationships you may have. Ultimately, the holiday season should be about your wellbeing and the connections that truly matter in your life. No matter what you decide, be sure to share your new and old traditions with our community!
For those that celebrate, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and for those that don’t, wishing you the best day ever!
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