Being Thankful in Uncertain Times – Reflections on Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving this year is different. Gatherings will be smaller or take place on screens. Turkeys may be set steaming beneath foil wrap on the porches of loved ones, not carved together atop a shared table. Autumn 2020 is a time of stress, lack, uncertainty, grief and struggle. Yet we’re piecing together what remnants we can of Thanksgivings past. In the midst of unprecedented change scarred across our world this year, we’re actively creating continuity and maintaining tradition adjusted to our means.

As I reflect on this year’s Thanksgiving, two perspectives come to mind to buoy me through these unusual seas. 

From Spring to Autumn

The first perspective involves the natural foundation of this holiday. Thanksgiving is celebrated at this time of year as it is when the harvest is gathered. So many of our precious Canadian crops are ready for the reaping in this season. This is a time of feasting. What catches my attention as I reflect on this agricultural base of Thanksgiving is the way it joins our year together. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 only within Autumn 2020. Rather, what we are celebrating during Thanksgiving 2020 is the planting and hope of Springtime 2020. We are gathering the riches now of what we sowed this spring.

It makes me wonder what I “planted” in my own life in the first months of this year that I may just be “harvesting” now. Perhaps there was a mindset, a choice, an occurrence or a change for which I can bear responsibility. What good things did I plant just as the pandemic was rising, that are perhaps benefiting me here and now in autumn? What troubling things did I plant then that are perhaps burdening me now? How does the self I was in springtime affect the self I am today, and all the good and bad that I carry? What does that teach me about what I ought to be planting now in support of my 2021 self?

From Attitude to Atmosphere

The second perspective that comes to mind involves a comparison of myself from past Thanksgivings to this one. Putting myself in the thankful mindset earlier this weekend, I was thinking: Yes, there is so much I can be grateful for this year. Yes, I am blessed that I am able to have a small family gathering with people I love. I struggled to come up with a thought that would make me feel like I had some control in this year’s limited celebration. The lack of control made me feel uneasy and unsatisfied. Then I considered how I would be feeling, thinking and living differently if this Thanksgiving were like those of past years.

If this Thanksgiving were like those of past years, there would be an abundance of both people and food. There would be a long drive through Ontario’s reds and yellows to get to the location where my whole big family was gathering. There’d be late nights of spending time together. How would I be, if that were the case? I would be similarly grateful as I am now, but I would be much more energetic, warm and smiling. The liveliness of the crowd of family would have lifted my attitude this way. So what does that mean for me now, with minimal family and no travel?

I am not in control of the pandemic. I am not in control of all the circumstances leading up to the seven-person backyard meal we’re having this Thanksgiving. But what I am in control of is my attitude. What would happen if I actively chose to put on the same energetic, warm and smiling attitude I’d naturally have at a normal Thanksgiving celebration? What would happen if I actively chose to bring a little more of the “usual” to this unusual time? By choosing to encourage a certain attitude, even without the stimulus that would normally create it, perhaps I can create, in turn, a certain atmosphere for all with whom I interact. While normally, it’d be Thanksgiving that would create this attitude for me, maybe, by encouraging the attitude in myself first, I can bring a bit more of Thanksgiving to us


My challenges to myself this Thanksgiving are:

  • to recognize the genuine lack and difference of this year, and allow that grief space to sit and be;
  • to consider how what I might be planting now, in my own thoughts and actions, may impact a harvest of emotions and circumstances in the future;
  • to be mindful of how I would be in Thanksgivings of the past, and choose to bring some of that attitude to this year, savouring the little piece of the world that I do have control over (myself) and seeing how I can improve the atmosphere for those around me.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone.

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1 comment


Wow THANKS for making me think of the future, past and present. I will try to upgrade my blessings every day 🙏.
Love you

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