Why Today is Thanksgiving (Plus the Secret to Recreate Any Holiday on Any Day)

Sharing is CaringIt started as just another strange thought among many.

“Why do people focus their positive feelings and the expression of those feelings when the calendar tells them to?

Isn’t experiencing sweet vibes and sharing groovy feelings timeless… and independent of time?”

You might know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever:

  • Gone all-in on giving gifts around “The Holidays”
  • Overdosed on gratitude and contentment around Thanksgiving
  • Made a card for someone special on their birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or another important calendar day

Those all feel goooood, don’t they?

All these annual events create happiness, peaceful reflection, and appreciation for our abundance.

Yet we wait for a calendar trigger to have the most meaningful and rewarding experiences.

In what universe does that make sense?

I don’t freakin’ know and I’m not cool with that anymore. That’s why I’m doing something about it.

And you’re going to join me!

Will I force you to create moments when you’re walking on air?

(or walking on sunshine, Katrina & The Waves 1980s style)


But you could easily find yourself spending today like it’s Thanksgiving. Doesn’t that sound nice?

A New Narrative

Here’s something you don’t realize: today – May 27th – is the calendar day as far away as possible from American Thanksgiving 2012 and Thanksgiving 2013.

So we’re going to treat it like just another day; nose down in work, crazily or mindlessly running errands, taking our amazing friends and family for granted, and not appreciating the soft bed, warm food, abundant sanitation, and/or a climate-controlled environment.


Hell no! Not today.

Today is my day to overdose on gratitude, contentment, joy, giving, and the free expression of love.

Today can be your day for all these things too.

This isn’t crazy. Even the very sane and influential Joshua Becker thought that celebrating May 27th like Thanksgiving was a great idea in my chat with him.

Here are some ways we’re going to do it. I’m sure you’ll come up with awesome ones of your own in the comments:

  1. Turkey BowlRecreate the traditions: Some of my past Thanksgiving traditions include catching up with relatives I don’t see often, younger cousin vs. older cousins touch football, a lawn game called washoo (it’s a Midwest thing), family fun at the bowling alley (for the coveted Turkey Bowl trophy), watching football, and deep reflection about my unbelievably good fortune. Maybe you make a list of what you’re thankful for, volunteer at a homeless shelter or bring meals to the less fortunate, give work advice to a younger generation, retell stories of past Thanksgivings, share meaningful quotes, talk a long walk, take pictures to document the happy times, toast to gratitude, or something else. Except for playing or watching football, why can’t we do any of these things today?
  2. Type, call, and generally let the people we care about know how much they rock: No matter how busy your day is, I guarantee you have ten minutes (or more) to send quick emails or texts to tell family members that you love them (and why). Any craziness can subside long enough to call your best friend and tell him or her, “Hey. I just wanted you to know that I’m grateful for you and our schuper-duper friendship.”
  3. Round up the crew for a meal: I spend Thanksgiving with family, but maybe you spend it with close friends, strangers, or people down on their luck. It doesn’t matter who it is. Just round up some folks for a spontaneous meal today (with or without all the fixins) and delight in the rituals of Thanksgiving. Tell everyone why you’re grateful. Explain how content you are in this moment. Heck, have a virtual meal with distant friends or family via Skype or Google Hangouts. Make this an event you won’t forget. You know… like Thanksgiving.
  4. Document your Thanksgiving-like experience: Write or record your feelings and the experiences at the end of today. Then set up a recurring reminder in your scheduler – monthly sounds good and daily sounds wicked awesome – to review your recap of the day.

Creating a trigger to remind yourself that you don’t need to let the amazingness of annual events only happen annually is powerful. But there are more triggers to get the endorphins and gratitude flowing.

Holiday Triggers on non-Holidays

Whatcha need? A trigger for gratitude, living with intention, contentment, compassion, giving, happiness, or abundance? I have a resource for each one (and more if you request in the comments):

  1. Gratitude trigger: As my man Amit Amin says, “Gratitude increases our happiness, improves our relationships, and makes us healthier. And it does so reliably. Over 40 research studies have shown the same thing – gratitude rocks. So how can we get more of it?” Read this for a ton of awesome gratitude triggers and see the comments if you want to know which one I choose to form a habit.
  2. Living with intention trigger: Leo Babauta dares to ask questions like, “What if you were very aware of your intention for your actions? How would that transform the action, and your life?” And then he answers them in a powerful way that applies to anyone. His short essay on leading an intentional life changed the way I view “regular” events… and could for you too.
  3. Contentment trigger: Take your pick. Discover a new question to ask, read a short guide on practicing contentment, or explore the relationship between gratitude and contentment.
  4. Compassion trigger: Leo’s at it again with this manifesto on practical compassion. You might be surprised to know where compassion starts and how simple easing suffering can be.
  5. Giving trigger: A guest post I wrote on Becoming Minimalist explains why I give in nontraditional ways and how you can too… on any day of the year.
  6. Happiness trigger: This Chip Conley TEDTalk will knock your socks off. Watch it until you can recite parts in your sleep. And re-watch this whenever you want to trigger happiness.
  7. Abundance trigger: I live primally. Even if you don’t, this Mark’s Daily Apple article on simplifying life and refocusing on what’s important is a fantastic way to jolt your brain out of negative self-talk and away from feeling scarcity.


I’ve focused on recreating Thanksgiving today because it should be the last thing on my mind.

But you could easily celebrate a “regular” day like any other important calendar day. Using this simple calendar tool or this groovy calendar tool, here are some ideas for applying this concept creatively:

  1. Happy “138 days since your last birthday, best friend” Day!
  2. Merry “Let’s continue our quest to consume less and create more in June” Day!
  3. Quirky “Dress up like whatever you want and don’t care what anyone thinks in April” Day!
  4. Solemn “Atone for your sins because it’s the right thing to do on any day” Day.
  5. Joyous “Let’s show mom and dad how much we love them in October” Day!

Transform a “normal” day into something awesome just because you can or because of its relation to a special event. Pick a day in the next month and declare it <Fill in the Blank Day>… because you won’t let the calendar dictate when you can or should have certain experiences anymore!

And then round up friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, or strangers to celebrate with you. Declaring your unique holiday with a blog post, email, phone calls, knocking on doors, or another method doesn’t matter. And doing this spontaneously or with planning is up to you.

But this May 27th, 2013 – the day equidistant from the previous and next Thanksgiving – dig deep to remember all the reasons you’re grateful, content, and feel abundance.

Remember the inspiring blog posts you read around Thanksgiving. Recall the food with family. Reminisce about friendly conversations or that special way you give back during “The Holidays.”

And then don’t wait to recreate the spirit of Thanksgiving until, well, Thanksgiving.

Do it now.

Do something small (or huge).

Bring smiles to your face… and the faces of everyone else around you.

What traditions will you recreate today or on another “regular” day? Which trigger did you need most and what triggers should I add to the list?

Photo Credit: Brandon Christopher Warren


10 Responses to Why Today is Thanksgiving (Plus the Secret to Recreate Any Holiday on Any Day)

  1. Denise says:

    Great topic. I’m big on re-creating holidays. I celebrate New Year’s on my birthday, for example. Because to me the day my age changes is a more significant time for me to reflect, resolve, and look forward to another year.

    It’s interesting how holiday’s don’t evolve like other things do. People get attached to carrying on traditions, but there’s an opportunity to create something more meaningful to our personal values.

    Today is a no-school day, so as soon as I get off this computer, it’s just a family day for us.

    Thanksgiving, in the ‘invite family or friends to dinner’ sense could be worthy of a monthly event.

    I’m not a fan of Leo’s manifesto on practical compassion, though. I see compassion as allowing myself to experience pain with someone and being there for them. The point isn’t necessarily to alleviate someone’s pain or change anything.

    • New Year’s on your birthday makes total sense. I’d say “Why didn’t I think of that?!” but I don’t even think of a tiny fraction of the awesome stuff rattling around in our collective brains.

      Wouldn’t you say that some holidays do evolve – even significantly – over time? I’m thinking Earth Day off the bat, a hollow shell of it’s original purpose and scale, but others come to mind too. Even Thanksgiving evolves (at least in my family) with the incorporation of football, bowling, and other “modern” introductions. But in general, you’re on to something, Denise.

  2. David Delp says:

    I always appreciate bringing gratitude to the forefront of our awareness, and from everything we’re told these days, it helps our spirits stay lively the around us, well like us more!

    So rock on! Today is Thanksgiving Day.

    I think you posed this as a rhetorical question, but I also think it’s important one to address.

    “Yet we wait for a calendar trigger to have the most meaningful and rewarding experiences.

    “In what universe does that make sense?”

    I think it makes sense in a universe where we have so much else going on. It’s like that video where the virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell cranks out a mind blowing set on a 3.5 million dollar Strad in the middle of DC metro station— and gets ignored. Upon hearing this story people are aghast at the numbness of the 1000 or so passersby that don’t stop to listen.

    We need holiday’s for just that reason. Even when amazingness is in our presence we usually miss it, and we often need to miss it, to get on with the other parts of our lives. Holidays give a us a ritual, not just a trigger, to go deep and find those sacred places in our hearts. At least some people use them that way.

    So when we need to get to work on time because our work is important to us, for so many reasons, it’s no wonder we don’t stop to smell the roses, or listen “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2, which only a few people in the world can actually play.

    And then there are wake up calls…

    I’m especially grateful today because my Dad is still alive and my brothers are rallying around him as he recovers from a heart attack this weekend. There’s nothing as powerful as a close call to make you grateful. Thank you Dad for sticking around!

    And thanks to you for the moment today I get to write this down and be grateful for it!

    • I agree, David. Holidays give us pause to reflect, become aware of what’s important, and project ourselves forward into the future and say, “Is this what I’m really looking for?” I will say this though: I’d be one of the people who walked by Joshua Bell in the DC metro station… even if I knew who he was and how prestigious his instrument was. Like everything in life, some things – even seemingly beautiful things – are lost on the unrefined or unknowing. I like to think I fall into the unrefined category.

      I’m glad you’re feeling an extra helping of gratitude today and I’m especially glad your dad is recovering from his heart attack. Thanks for the wise words and the outpouring of warmth.

  3. Erin says:

    So interesting to hear your thoughts on holidays, Joel. I think you have a lot of good points about not saving our celebrations/love/joy/gratitude/etc. for specific days (much as the card and gift industry in the US would love for us to do so!).

    I can certainly see the flip side too, though. As David points out, there’s a sense of ritual that comes with holidays. For me, for instance, Thanksgiving comes with the transition between fall and winter, as a prelude to Christmas and the end of the year, and there are all kinds of other things that come along with that bit of time. And then there’s the cultural aspect of it, knowing that families across the country are recognizing the same event, being able to buy your flight home three months in advance and knowing all your siblings are doing the same thing without having to coordinate schedules because it’s Thanksgiving and as much of the family as can get to the same place will be there.

    So yes! I can see the merit in making “off” days into celebrations and carrying the good feelings we associate with a particular holiday throughout the year. But I can also see the value in a day on the calendar being celebrated year in and year out in a particular way. For me, it works to move the sentiment, but not the actual holiday.

    I hope your Memorial Day cum Thanksgiving has been wonderful!

    • Hey Erin! Yes, my Memorial Day cum Thanksgiving was memorable (no pun intended) and full of the emotions I hoped it would be. As for your comment, you bring up a ton of great points about making certain holidays a unique annual event and enjoying them the way they were created to be celebrated.

      Don’t you think the card and gift industry would go bonkers over a 365/24/7 set of rolling holidays… traditional and individual? The minimalist in me is shuddering a bit just thinking about the pressure people would feel to buy each other stuff.

  4. You know, I’ve heard the concept of being thankful everyday quite a bit on Thanksgiving, but never on the day on the opposite side of the calendar. Great idea, Joel.

    I’ve found that I’m not good at just remembering to do this kind of stuff on my own, so I’m glad you mentioned that we can schedule these kinds of days. I may not be the best at remembering to tell someone how much I care, but I can be when I give myself reminders.

    • Reminders = the greatest thing ever. Reminders from yourself or from other people. Especially when you have a seriously leaky brain like I do.

      I’m glad I could be your reminder today, Michael! Set up a few of your own now so you don’t have to rely on me or anyone else to trigger the things you love experiencing! :)

  5. Shanna Mann says:

    I mostly agree with David– I think that the cultural context of the collective “holidays” basically create the conditions where reflection is possible.

    For myself, I don’t really have holiday traditions. My whole tradition consists of having a big family dinner — the same thing we do on every birthday and anniversary, and Easter and Canada Day and so on. We’re simple folk 😛

    But I do try to consciously spend time noticing the changes in the natural world. I’ve found three birds’ nests in my yard so far! Noticing what plants are in bloom and so on makes me far more present.

    • If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, Shanna. I’m glad your family found something that works for everyone and there’s a lot to be said for the predictability of traditions.

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