Holiday traditions and expectations vary around the world, and in the case of Thanksgiving, there is a big distinction across the 49th parallel. In the US, November’s third Thursday is a major civic and family holiday; in Canada, it is business as usual — because Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.
(You’d also be hard pressed to find Thanksgiving observance in Singapore outside of the American expatriate community, and I expect almost none in neighbouring — and mostly Muslim — Malaysia.)
Nevertheless, the holiday IS important, both practically and symbolically, and for Americans represents a key unifying moment for families and the beginning of the defined Christmas holiday season.
Like most family focused holidays, it is a time of celebration for many, and a time of despair for others, but overall, I believe the good outweighs the angst because, when you come down to basics, most of us have much reason to be thankful, and even if things aren’t perfect, we still can find points of gratitude in our lives.
More importantly, we can use this time to look beyond ourselves; to our communities, values, and responsibility to others. Wherever we are in the world, these values are relevant every day. Thanksgiving allows us to put them in focus and perspective.