I miss Thanksgiving Day

The country where I live does not celebrate Thanksgiving Day. They say they do, but they don’t.

They call it the Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer, which is a mouthful, especially in German, but it’s nothing, really. It falls in the middle of September, and to me it’s just a day like any other.

I miss Thanksgiving Day, the real one, the one I remember from childhood. I woke up a little sad this morning thinking about it. I miss the meal of course, but I realize that I never helped to get it ready, and that I might not have enjoyed it nearly as much if I had to do the cooking. Most years I simply sat in my assigned seat and ate as much I could without making myself sick.

But the meal was never really the point, which I figured out as I grew older. And the point wasn’t the Santa Claus parades either. Or even the football games.

The point was gathering with family and maybe friends – to say thank you, to spend a few minutes thinking about what we have, as opposed to what we usually think about, which is what we don’t have or don’t like or can’t stand.

It’s a wonderful idea for a holiday when you think about it. Every household where I’ve shared the meal has had a slightly different version, but mostly we would go around the table and we would take turns mentioning something we were thankful for.

I’m pretty sure I said the Detroit Tigers one year – that was probably 1968, just a month after the World Series victory – but as I became older I didn’t try to be funny. I mostly got into the spirit of the thing.

And that’s what I now miss more than anything – the spirit of the thing.

The older I get, the more grateful I become. Older men tend to cry a lot, maybe you’ve noticed, and I think it’s because they finally realize, as I have, that they are blessed. I know I am blessed. I have been on the receiving end of a great deal, most of which I have not earned or deserved.

And so I am liable to tear up at the drop of a hat. I see one of my daughters looking back at me on the computer screen, through the miracle of FaceTime, and I cry. I can’t help it. I am blessed.

And then there are the grandchildren, and the career now coming to an end, and countless blessings along the way having to do with people I know and people I love and opportunities I have had for ministry and mission around the world.

My heart is full on this Thanksgiving Day, and because I won’t be able to say it with family and friends, I will say it here. Excuse me while I reach for a tissue.

(Photo: That’s Bahnhofstrasse, an important street in the heart of Zürich, on Thanksgiving evening after the Christmas lights are turned on – Weihnachtsbeleuchtung Lucy.  It’s called “Lucy” because of the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”)

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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4 Responses to I miss Thanksgiving Day

  1. Fred Anderson November 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm #


    I’m thankful for you and our early years in ministry together, for what you taught me about writing, for our friendship after working together (how many former colleagues can say that?!), and that having served so well in other places, you will soon be home to take up new forms of ministry, as well as what first got you started–writing.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  2. Leon C Twombly Jr November 24, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    Hello Doug…I am so glad to still be in touch and very much enjoy our friendship…even from a distance. Your heart and writing spur me on in life and ministry. Look forward to having you back in the states and hopefully within actual real-time, flesh-time distance. Meantime, kudos, friend-writer and am looking forward to reading your latest tome.

    God’s rich blessing to you and yours…


  3. Catrina Hamilton Lanum November 27, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    I’m always pleased to receive your writings, even if they’re reminiscent of Thanksgivings of days gone by. I will be so happy when you return to the states so you can once again begin to celebrate traditional Thanksgivings with family and friends. I’m so pleased I had the opportunity to cross paths with you, albeit briefly, because your sermons, writings, and wisdom have left a graceful impact on my life.

  4. Georgia Hamilton November 27, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    Doug, thank you for the reminder of a truly American holiday which is so often overshadowed by Christmas. We were with long-time friends this year but I truly missed being with my boys and their families. As I write this I get a little teary-eyed thinking of them. I have so much to be thankful for in my life–not the least of which was the time you shepherded First Pres. We were so blessed that you and Susan chose to lead us. May god continue to guide and bless you as you prepare for uncharted waters called “retirement’!
    Georgia H