Maybe the time has come for us to give Thanksgiving a try
Today is Thanksgiving in the States – a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
The origins of the day stem from an event that the Americans call the 'First Thanksgiving', which was celebrated by the pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. That feast lasted three days and was attended by Native Americans and pilgrims alike.
Nowadays it means families and friends sitting down to a full turkey dinner. There will be parades – like the famous Macy's parade in New York – and football games.
I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent in America. I wasn't familiar with the holiday and was perplexed by the explanation that it was 'like Christmas, but with no presents'.
I was also a little thrown when, at the dinner table, all the guests began to explain what they were thankful for and what had happened that year to remind them to be grateful for their blessings. It was all a bit Walton's mountain for me, and I found myself squirming in my seat with embarrassment as I struggled to find something to say that wouldn't sound either insane or insanely stupid.
Two decades later, though, I think we could do worse than take a leaf out of our American cousins' handbook and adopt this day.
I love the magic of Christmas, especially when there are young children in the house, but it's a sad truth that it has now become grossly over-commercialised. There is so much pressure to buy gifts and create the 'perfect' day that the sentiment of the season can be lost in the blind panic.
St Patrick's Day, meanwhile, has sadly morphed from what used to be – a celebration of national pride – into a day when some people drink solidly from morning to night. It maddens me that a day that used to be associated with simple family fun is now more linked to lager louts, violence and A&Es like war zones.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, seems to have retained some of its simple origins. Yes, there is an inevitable commercial aspect, as there is to everything. Massive sales kick off in most stores the following day – called Black Friday. In recent years, some shops have even begun to open on the day itself.
But, tellingly, this move has resulted in a backlash from those who still appreciate the holiday for what it is supposed to represent – time spent with family and friends.
For me the idea of Thanksgiving now seems a lot less cheesy than I once thought it was.
Maybe it's the passing of time that has made me able to appreciate the idea of this holiday, or maybe it's because I look at my children and thank my lucky stars for them every day, but I now believe that there's nothing wrong with taking stock of where your life is going and the things that you are grateful for.
We all need time to pause and reflect, to step away from the frenetic pace of the modern world, even for a few hours. If I was sitting at that American family's dinner table now, like I was all those years ago, I could think of plenty to give thanks for. And I wouldn't be embarrassed about it.
It might be time to start it here.