Posted by: smstrouse | November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving: an Interfaith Holiday

UnknownIt hasn’t happened since 1888: Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will fall on the same day, that is, the first full day of the eight-day Jewish festival. Inevitably, clever people have named the coming holiday “Thanksgivukkah” and have been creating special foods and other accoutrements (like a turkey-shaped menorah) to celebrate the occasion.

As a follower of Rabbi Jesus, I feel included in the Hanukkah festivities. I’m looking forward to lighting the candles on the menorah I received as a Christmas gift last year. But I’m also wondering how we can make Thanksgiving even more of an interfaith holiday. Just think – Thanksgiving is not a strictly Christian observation. It’s not like Christmas or Easter. It’s all about our human need to give thanks, which is addressed in all the major religious traditions.

For example:

  • Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. – G.K. Chesterton (Christian)
  • If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul. – Rabbi Harold Kushner
  • Thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives. – Rumi (Sufi)
  • A thankful person is thankful under all circumstances. A complaining soul complains even in paradise. – Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)
  • Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. – Native American 
  • You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy. – The Buddha
  • Under affliction in the very depths, stop and contemplate what you have to be grateful for. – Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science)

See what I mean? Gratitude, thankfulness, blessings: on this one day at least, we have language in common. Many communities have already recognized this and have been holding interfaith Thanksgiving services. But why not make it more official, more institutionalized?


Also – in response to Macy’s decision to be open for business on the 28th, a call has gone out for  “No Shopping on Thanksgiving Day!” A day set aside for giving thanks with friends nad family should not include going to the mall to buy stuff we can get any other day. This is also language   that can speak across religious traditions.

Why not declare Thanksgiving to be an interfaith holiday, dedicated to giving thanks, sharing our common humanity, eating together, singing and praying together? These are the things we really need! Maybe then we wouldn’t feel like we had to run out to Macy’s for that big sale on a bunch of things that we really do not need at all.


  1. What a wonderful thought! We can strip away all the nationalistic limitations and include all the bountiful blessings of The Sacred Spirit alive in the many physical manifestations of life on earth.


  2. I’d love to have every person prepare what they want and open all the doors to our homes so that we may share all our blessings with everyone in proximity to anyone else.


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