Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gratitude

We celebrated Thanksgiving early this year. It’s usually not possible to celebrate it on the same Thursday as in the USA, since Norway does not celebrate the holiday. Even if I wanted to celebrate it on the same day, I’d have to take that Thursday off from work, as would any of the guests who might want to join us for the festivities. So for the past twenty-three years I’ve usually celebrated on the weekend following Thanksgiving in the States. But since we already have plans for the next two weekends, today (Sunday) was our celebration. Just my husband and me this year; all our usual guests had other plans. I asked my husband how he would feel if I stopped celebrating the holiday, and he said he would miss it. It’s true; he would miss it, because it’s become a part of our annual holiday repertoire. He’s appreciative of the gestures I make to share my culture, as I am grateful for the gestures he makes to share his. Since I moved here, I’ve made it a point to keep on celebrating the holidays I celebrated when I lived in the USA---Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Norwegians celebrate Christmas, New Year’s and Easter, so there’s pretty good overlap in terms of food and drink; in recent years Halloween and Valentine’s Day have become a part of their society, albeit on a much smaller commercial scale than in the USA. The Norwegian postal service offers some really nice Valentine’s Day stamps; I’ll have to scan in some of the first day covers for Valentine’s Day that I own and present them in a future post.  

It’s nice to have the holidays to look forward to and to prepare for each year. I might even say it’s become necessary for me to celebrate them. Doing so breaks up the long darkness that is winter here. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to celebrate them. The winters are not much worse weather-wise than they were in New York; it’s the short days and the black darkness that get to you after a while. So the holidays are a way to get me through each dark month of winter. By the time Valentine’s Day is over, the darkness has lifted, and the promise of spring, summer and long sunlit days is in the air. In that sense, I am grateful for all the holidays each year; each holiday has its special charm. Thanksgiving especially is a holiday for reflection on all those things that we have to be grateful for. It is not about shopping or bargains or football, even though it may seem that way sometimes. It is about family and the ties that bind, about being thankful for them and for good friends. I remember when we were in our teens, our friends lived right around the corner, and after dinner, we hung out at each other’s houses or went for walks around the town. We always stopped in to say hello to our friends’ parents at some point. Those friends are still my friends today, my oldest and dearest friends, and I am grateful for their friendship. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Thanksgiving is also about being thankful for the bounties that America enjoys. In that sense, Norway has much to be grateful for as well; its oil wealth is certainly a bounty. We don’t always realize that we are blessed; often we are too busy kvetching or constantly on the lookout for the next new thing that will better our lives. We actually have all that we need; we just need to appreciate our lives more, and appreciate the life around us.  

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