My American friends often asked me whether we have a Thanksgiving holiday in Indonesia. Maybe the question was raised as a response to my amazement on how the Thanksgiving is heavily celebrated in America. Here we have not just one, but two day offs for the holiday; the Thanksgiving day and the day after Thanksgiving. Offices are closed, people are travelling to be with their loved ones, and all over TV and the internet the topic is all about the Thanksgiving. It’s really an important holiday for the nation, perhaps the biggest of the year.
To my friends I explained that in my hometown, North Sulawesi, there is a thanksgiving celebration around July and August. It’s celebrated annually but there is no specific date for it, and each region has its own thanksgiving season. It’s a local event so there isn’t any Indonesian national holiday for Thanksgiving. The scale of the celebration is of course way lower than it is in America, plus we don’t have the iconic turkey dinner.
There are, however, some commonalities about the Thanksgiving celebration here in America and in my hometown. First, the thanksgiving in both places was prompted by good harvest, many-many years ago. Today, we still keep the tradition even though we’re living in modern urban setting with no farm products to harvest. Second, the purpose is the same, which is to be thankful for the harvest or the blessings that we have received throughout the year. Third, it’s a family event. All gather around the kitchen or the dining table enjoying good food and company.
Fourth, and this is the sad part, there are always people who want to celebrate with their families with a proper meal but don’t have the means to do so. Coming from Indonesia where the poverty is high, I expect that this story won’t happen so much in America, the land of the abundance. Sadly, it does.
Here I’m working in a non-profit for at risk families, and every day I’m in touch with parents who are struggling to put the food on the table. These last few days I got calls looking for food pantries, or asking about food stamps, any help that they can use to provide a decent food for their kids during the special holiday. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m in not in Indonesia.
I guess this brings me to my fifth point. Both here and there, we can do something about this. We can always reach out to those in need by giving and sharing what we have. The very reason why we give thanks is because we were given all kinds of blessings, big or small. I guess there’s no better way to express our gratitude than to give back what we were given.
Maybe instead of worrying about how much time we need to defrost the turkey, this is something that we can think about on this Thanksgiving eve.