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The Spirit of Thanksgiving in 12 Literary Quotes

Katie Wink By Katie Wink Published on November 22, 2017

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As an American expat, I’ve finally made my peace with hearing: “In America, Thanksgiving is more important than Christmas, right?” The question always used to put me on edge. Christmas is a holy day; Thanksgiving is sacred in its own way. It feels wrong to measure their importance by the same stick.

My answer, after many years, is this: for Christians, naturally Christmas is more important than Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving is the bigger holiday, in that people of all faiths, across our wildly varied land, can celebrate it together. We are united by giving thanks along a common pattern—almost anyone who celebrates Thanksgiving does so with a version of the traditional feast, shared with family and friends. Christmas traditions, however, can be completely different from one house to the next. (My last last Christmas at home, we played Cards Against Humanity and feasted on Chinese takeaway before going to church. And I don’t think I’m an outlier here.)

Americans share Thanksgiving as a day for gratitude, not gift-giving. We share it with people we love, and we share it as a nation. In honor of Thanksgiving Day 2017, I’ve collected twelve literary quotes that carry the spirit of the holiday, from Thoreau's perpetual thanksgiving, to Wilde's perpetual wit. I’m thankful to be sharing them with you. 

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite, only a sense of existence.”

Familiar Letters of Henry David Thoreau

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

A Short History of England, G.K. Chesterton

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot

“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me…”

The Open Door, Helen Keller

“I made cranberry sauce, and when it was done put it into a dark blue bowl for the beautiful contrast… I was thinking that gratitude is too much absent in our lives now, and we need it back, even if it only takes the form of acknowledging the blue of a bowl against the red of cranberries.”

Open House, Elizabeth Berg

“All sanity depends on this: that it should be a delight to feel the roughness of a carpet under smooth soles, a delight to feel heat strike the skin, a delight to stand upright, knowing the bones are moving easily under the flesh.”

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

"Sweet is the breath of vernal shower
The bee’s collected treasure sweet
Sweet music’s melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of gratitude."

Ode to Music,” Thomas Gray

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

“And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

Boston Marriage, David Mamet

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”

A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde

Cover image by Simon Maage on Unsplash.


Katie is a reader, editor and note taker who works as a Content Writer at Bookwitty. Originally from Wisconsin, she's at home in Dublin.

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