In case you were ever wondering, the reason the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday is earlier than the American celebration is a simple geographic one. Our harvest season starts earlier than our neighbours’ to the south. Plus, we need to give ourselves some breathing space before we go nuts on Christmas shopping!

In Canada, we have been celebrating Thanksgiving as a holiday for 140 years, but here is an interesting tidbit that I discovered doing some stringent academic research on Wikipedia:

“On January 31, 1957, the Governor General of Canada Vincent Massey issued a proclamation stating: ”A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

This was at a time in Canadian society when there was a Judaeo-Christian consensus and it was appropriate for governing officials to make references to the God of the Bible. Canada, you see, was founded by people who believed, at least culturally, in the Personal, Creator, Sustainer God as revealed in the Bible.

You don’t have to subscribe to a Biblical faith, though, in order to realize the tremendous benefits of “an attitude of gratitude.”  Here’s a Time magazine article about mental health researchers outlining some benefits of thanksgiving: reduced depression, better self esteem, increased energy levels, improved relationships, better sleep patterns and healthier eating.

God’s prescribed principles for living on this speck of dust in the cosmos are universal. This is what theologians refer to as “common grace” – the goodness of God that is available to all humanity. The person who lives by her God-given conscience will, even unconsciously, live by God’s laws and will reap the benefits of doing so.

Here is how God commands his followers to live: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” Instructions to give thanks fill the pages of the Scriptures. This is not because he is a self-centred megalomaniac. He knows that it will benefit us when we orient our lives around our Creator and not our own egos.

The true secret of thanksgiving is giving thanks in all circumstances – not just in the “bountiful harvest”, but even in lack. I came across this beautiful statement by Nick Vujicic, “Often people ask how I manage to be happy despite having no arms and no legs. The quick answer is that I have a choice. I can be angry about not having limbs, or I can be thankful that I have a purpose. I chose gratitude.”

When we are able to give thanks in all circumstances, we are making a powerful statement of faith. We are saying that a) my Loving Father is in control of my life because I’ve given him the reigns, and b) as I respond rightly to my circumstances God is forming the nature of Jesus in me – my highest prize!

Thank you Father that you yourself are my exceedingly great reward!