Why Do We Give Thanks?

I feel a strange pressure to write a post about how I’m thankful for stuff today. I do feel immense gratitude for a great many people, places, and things, but the conflict comes from my perceived expectation that I should share my thanks simply because it’s a holiday in the United States. However, I’m not in the United States.

Most people here in Thailand aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary today. People aren’t traveling to grandma’s house en masse, and grocery stores aren’t stocked up on inordinate amounts of cranberry sauce and turkey. But even still, I gathered for dinner with a group of friends to celebrate a holiday that isn’t even happening in the country in which I reside. Among the group were mostly people raised in the US, but also a handful of others from different countries. When asked about the meaning of Thanksgiving, I realized I have more questions about it than I have answers.

American Thanksgiving dinner at Cat House Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

American Thanksgiving dinner at Cat House Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Throughout the discussion, I found myself needing to explain the fairy tale version of Thanksgiving we’re taught in government schools, the more historically accurate version amalgamated from various texts by radical historians, and the more modern meaning that seems to broadly involve seeing people you like, eating tons of food, and posting about everything you’re thankful for on social media sites. And while our discussion was full of great cross-cultural insights, this last point is what has left me most puzzled.

Most of my Facebook friends are from the US, so most of my Facebook feed has been people sharing their thanks in their statuses. I almost posted a similar status myself about a recent trip to Pai, and moving into a new apartment today. But before I clicked the post button, I felt an internal nagging to question my own motives and intentions. When I stopped to listen to this nagging, I was greeted with a number of questions.

Do we share our thanks for the benefit of ourselves, for others, for both?

When we post our thanks each day in November or on Thanksgiving, are we actually more thankful during that time, or is it just that we’re making it a point to share the thanks we experience every other day of the year? And if that’s the case, why don’t we post our thanks every other day of the year?

Does sharing our thanks help us develop a habit of seeking out those things in our lives for which we have much gratitude? Or do we get a boost for a month or two that then fades when the US holiday season comes to a close?

Were all of us this thankful before social media allowed us to share our thanks with hundreds of family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers with such ease?

Do we realize how much of a miracle it is that we have a way to share our thanks across the world with such little time, energy, and money?

These are a few of the questions that came to mind. I don’t have answers for any of them, and I’m sure the answers differ for each individual, but I’m thankful for the chance to ponder. Maybe you are, too.