Today is Thanksgiving, that oh-so-American holiday where we sit down with family and friends and stuff our faces and drink wine until everybody falls asleep in a tryptophan-induced food coma amidst a pile of dirty dishes and bird carcasses. All across America, families just like mine will take the day off work, eat together, and try to remind one another that despite Donald Trump, racist cops, terrorism and the like, we actually do have a lot of reasons to feel thankful.
Despite its dubious origin story (what with the white settlers feasting with the group of American natives they eventually slaughtered in mass genocide and all), I love Thanksgiving. I love the food. I love being with my family. I love wine and games, and going outside for a long walk in the cool fall to “make room for more” as my family likes to say. But beyond all that merriment, I love what the celebration itself symbolizes: people take a whole day to practice gratitude with people you care about. This is something we should all do more often and with greater ferocity.
Maybe Iceland should adopt Thanksgiving in earnest. These days, there is already a growing crowd of people in Iceland who celebrate Halloween and Valentine’s Day. There are even Black Friday sales here. Why not make Turkey Day a thing? Moreover, Thanksgiving typically serves as a buffer for Christmas madness. In America, it is frowned upon to start decorating with lights or listening to those cozy Christmas tunes until Thanksgiving is over. When I see IKEA adds in late October for Christmas decorations, it makes me homesick for the Thanksgiving buffer-rule.
As of now, Iceland’s closest celebration to the holiday where folks eat traditional foods and drink a ton and feel grateful they do not live in the past is probably the midwinter feast of Þorri. It may be that I just like turkey, stuffing, and pie more than sour sheep testicles and rotten shark. I dunno. Never really got super excited about Þorri.
Even if you aren’t feasting today, I encourage you to take a moment to feel thankful with me. You don’t need to look far these days to feel inspired toward gratitude. Feel thankful for the roof over your head and the warmth of your radiator on this cold blustery day. Let your heart swell when you think of the sheer luck you had to be born when and where you were. If you live in Iceland now, or if you are visiting, try and imagine what life may have been like here a century ago. Thank antibiotics, indoor plumbing, food safety standards, and paved roads. There are plenty of people in the world who still don’t have those things. Remind yourself that you won the lottery when you were born.
Here is the fun thing about gratitude; it makes you happy. Gratitude makes you realize that despite the boring day-to-day grind, you are actually one lucky son of a bitch. Even today, not many people have the level of comfort that you have. When that really sinks in, gratitude makes you generous. When you see the people suffering, it makes you want to help them. When you help other people, your happy cycle snowballs. Grateful, giving, happy. Repeat. Like everybody else, Iceland could use a bit of that attitude, don’t you think?