Thanksgiving: often defined as a traditional, religious holiday in which participants invest in giving thanks to God for all of the blessings their lives hold.

Within this classic textbook definition, I would like to point out the word traditional, because my Thanksgivings are far from traditional. Thoughts of family surrounding a dinner table slathered in delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. come to mind. Is my mouth the only one watering right now just thinking about it?

Anyhow, back on track – Thanksgivings can be far from traditional. Well, it depends on the season. I love indulging in a traditional Thanksgiving. We all gather at my cousin’s house considering my Aunt ALWAYS hosts Thanksgiving. It’s such a rewarding time where you truly do realize what you are grateful for, your family and all the quirky memories you share.

While my Aunty Lisa’s Thanksgiving has a special place in my heart – how could I miss her classic sweet potato casserole? Yet, there was one Thanksgiving where my parents decided to fly down the nontraditional route with gusto. Rather than spend Thanksgiving in the city, it was decided we would have a small Thanksgiving in the middle of some forest. This did not bode well initially. What about Aunty Lisa’s? What about seeing the family? What about the food?

It became apparent that my judgements were too harsh jumping to hasty assumptions that proved false. On this Thanksgiving, we spent it in a trailer hidden in the trees. We spent the day riding quads around with the chilly breeze making Thanksgiving all the more festive. Once dinner time came around, our plates were licked clean – we deep-fried a turkey. If you’ve had deep-fried turkey, then you can relate to the “plates being licked clean.”

However, it wasn’t the simple Thanksgiving dinner, it was the experience. An experience entailing the changing colors of the forest leaves trickling down from the sky. Beneath these auburn giants, a little creek captures the leaves as they float like little sailboats hoping to survive the rocky waters up ahead. To compliment the beauty of this nature, iridescent, golden sunrays glimmer through the treetop canvas. Sparkling along the creek, the sun is drawn to the leaves; illuminating hues of a burnt sunset, you felt incased in this little paradise. Sitting along the edge of the creek, my feet upset the current as refreshing water washed over me. Laying back and taking it all in, I wanted to take a photo but I realized no photo could ever capture the beauty of this moment – this moment of pure bliss that I knew my memory would never let me forget.

It’s these moments, these moments where Thankfulness flourishes not simply because some holiday declares so, but because people have joy in their hearts. We are surrounded by what makes our lives worth living. Sometimes this isn’t a cookie cutter Thanksgiving at my Aunt’s house, sometimes it’s a messy Thanksgiving in a cramped trailer followed by a breathtaking sunset.

This being said, try something new this year. You’ll be surprised how your perspective changes. Who knows, you’ll probably have a few new things to be thankful for. So, experiment! Try volunteering or take a spontaneous trip to the forest. But never forget to give thanks for what truly lights up your heart every day.