An Action of Grace: Canadian Thanksgiving

What’s the purpose of Canadian Thanksgiving?

From The Canadian Encyclopedia:

The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in what is now Nunavut. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who, according to explorer Richard Collinson, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places [sic].”

Mills, David et al. “Thanksgiving in Canada”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 05 July 2019, Historica Canada. Accessed 13 October 2019.

The article makes it clear that “Thanksgiving” has many meanings above and beyond harvest celebrations and Pilgrim landings. It’s a time to thank—god, or your lucky stars—for health and for survival, for whatever prosperity we have, for family and friends, for peace, for democracy and freedoms—for somehow muddling through this crazy life that is given to us.

In the past year I’ve survived fraudsters, tight finances, more crazy roommates and my sixty-fourth birthday, and somehow I just keep going.

I have good friends, resilience, a sharp mind, the music of Beethoven; memories both tender and terrible, all of which remind me I’ve had, and still have, a fairly extraordinary existence in one of the countries that’s most blessed with wealth and goodwill.

I’m gay, and I won’t be put to death for that. I could marry my partner, if I wanted to, and if I had a partner. I have food to eat, a place to live. I have skills that have directed my life down interesting pathways: Classical pianist; bodywork/zen shiatsu; photography and visual art; and from the time I was able to pick up a crayon and annoy people, writing.

And I’m sixty-four and still look good enough that people don’t run from me, screaming. As long as I have my clothes on.

I spend far too much time complaining, going over old hurts, nursing my wounds, worrying, regretting, and eating Kraft Dinner—

—and how do they get FOUR PORTIONS out of that little box? Torturers! Once I added Brussels sprouts, and though they were thinly shredded, my roommate threatened to call 51 Division on me. I saved my skin by adding some Shopsy’s wieners, cut up and boiled in the same water as the pasta.

I will add that my family were wiener boilers from way back. We didn’t hold with socializing with wiener fryers, who tended to be Catholics and other idolaters from southern Europe and even more reprehensibly “ethnic” folk who tried to do more than contribute some new additions to the McCormick spice line.

If the situation warranted, we’d cross the street to avoid encountering a hot-dog fryer family out for their evening promenade, though it hurt our souls to shun them. But how else to teach them the evil of their ways?

Thanksgiving is a time to recall that much of life is in the attitude we take, simplistic though it sounds.

In Québec, Thanksgiving is celebrated much less than in other provinces of Canada, given the Protestant and Anglo origins of the holiday.

The Québec French translation of Thanksgiving is “Action de grâce.” This is a beautiful rendering, which reminds me that grace means to be given something for no reason. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve, love that we didn’t earn. Grace means to be an infant again, held protectively; to dive off the pier and trust the waves to catch us.

This Thanksgiving, give a thought to the refugees of the world: the homeless, hungry and displaced, who are suffering because of wars, famines and natural disasters.

That we are not refugees is an accident of birth, statistically improbable.

Yet, through grace, here we are.


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