Happy Wednesday, everyone! Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up, and it really got me thinking about how the holidays can be used as a time of reflection.
Last year was my first Thanksgiving in Canada in a while — before that, I was living in Colombia, and I would usually just celebrate with a couple of the Canadian teachers who worked with me. It was never quite the same, though… not without the leaves changing colours, the crisp, cool air.
Last year was also the first Thanksgiving without my mom . . . and if it hadn't been for my brother putting something together, I might have been tempted to just skip it. Thanksgiving was always about my mom’s gravy and her stuffing recipe — sitting together in the dining room one of three times a year. I remember how my brother’s favourite holidays were always the “food holidays”, the ones when we got to eat Mom’s turkey dinner, and how he would always prepare his stomach to eat as much as possible. So without Mom’s cooking, Thanksgiving just didn’t feel like it would ever be the same again.
Holidays can be difficult for people — whether it be complicated family dynamics, grieving a loss, financial struggles, or being far away from home. Journaling has always been an extremely powerful tool for me, and there’s always been an increased sense of presence in the fall that lends itself well to reflection. In the way that squirrels collect acorns for the winter, I feel like I can do the same on an emotional level. I can ask myself: What routines are going to help me get through the colder seasons? Who do I want to be around? Who or what do I want to focus my energy on?
So this year, I’ve come up with some reflection questions that I want to share with you. If you choose to do this, feel free to share your reflections in the comments— I would love to engage with you all more. You can also adjust the questions to be more about October in general or the beginning of fall.
- What has been your happiest Thanksgiving so far? What do you think made it so special and memorable? Use your five senses— is there anything that you can feel, see, taste, touch or smell?
- Are there ways for you to incorporate what made your past Thanksgivings special this year?
- Between last year and now, are there any new or rekindled relationships? If so, what have they brought to your life? In what ways do you (or could you) nurture the relationships in your life?
- Where were you this time last year? What hurdles have you overcome to get to where you are? Where do you hope to be next year?
Here are what my reflections have yielded:
I don’t remember any one Thanksgiving in particular. I remember moments and little traditions — like when my dad would go do the dishes, when my brother went off in a food coma, the girls would sit around the table laughing over tea and dessert.
I remember the fact that my dad made at least one hilarious, incredibly witty comment every Thanksgiving dinner.
I remember an oversized navy blue coat with a light pink interior — taking a family picture in the kaleidoscope forest near my grandma’s house and finding acorns in the pockets for years to come. I couldn’t have been older than eight years old.
I remember making crazy hats out of the fall leaves with my mom — for a contest at school in first grade. My hat definitely wasn’t the craziest of the bunch, just an old birthday hat with leaves stuck on it with a hot glue gun. I was proud of it though. I remember the excitement, waiting at the entrance of my house on that dark chilly morning before school, with my hat on and matching red sweater.
For me, Thanksgiving has always been about creating a space for deeper connection. It was a moment that said, “Here we all are — together again.” So this year I want to create more spaces of togetherness and continue to create new traditions. I want to reconnect with friends and family that I wasn’t able to see as often when I lived abroad. I want us to cook together, for us to sit around a delicious meal. I want to take nature walks, to ask people I love some of these reflection questions so I can know them on an even deeper level. Most of all I want to keep the memory of my mom alive. I want us to try to recreate her recipes — even if they’ll probably never taste quite the same. I want to remember the beautiful moments she created for our family.
This year, I’ve learned about navigating sadness. I’ve learned that, in exploring sadness, many beautiful realizations are made. At the bottom of it all lies what truly matters — because I’ve realized everything is finite and nothing is guaranteed. All we can do is be grateful for the love we’ve received and the potential we have in the present moment.
Next year, I hope to have grown my community. I hope my life is guided by everything that’s important to me. I hope to have discovered new rituals that make me feel present and connected.
Want to read more of my reflections? Check them out here:
Cherished Memories: A Reflection on Friendship
And don't forget to pin to Pinterest to save the questions for later!