November 17, 2023
“Why are there are no thanksgiving songs?” That is the question the Student Activities team posed a month ago at our blog meeting. Our team has been busy in preparation for Christmas Coffeehouse: Snowed In. Tryouts wrapped up a few weeks ago, the emcees have been rehearsing and revising their script, the marketing team is pushing out promo videos and beautiful designs, and our evenings and weekends have been spent building and painting photo booths for that big night. And all that is for what? A show dedicated to displaying the talent of our student body through – you guessed it – Christmas music. But before we sprint through those last couple weeks of projects, finals, and Coffeehouse sandwiched somewhere in the middle, we get to return home and spend a day stuffing our faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. So, if Thanksgiving is so valued in our culture, why does our holiday music act like it doesn’t exist?
Well, one possible answer is that Thanksgiving is far less marketable than Christmas. I would like to believe that everyone enters into the holiday season with a grateful heart. But in our materialistic-centered society, that is far from true. The songs we listen to tend to attach themselves to memory, and from our mind flows our decisions. If the mall blasts Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” you won’t necessarily think of your special someone but instead recall those amazing Black Friday deals a few years back, when that same song was being played in every store you shopped at. Why are stores now playing Christmas music in October? Perhaps it’s because the earworms subconsciously motivate consumers to make their Christmas purchases long before frost covers the ground. Ty Justice, Student Activities Event Staff, phrased it this: “Thanksgiving is the speed bump on the Christmas highway.” Quite simply, Thanksgiving music is impractical for consumerism.
Another likely reason is that Thanksgiving is insulated to our American culture. Sure, some other countries celebrate Thanksgiving to an extent, but the holiday has roots in our uniquely American history. We understand that Christianity is a global faith. As the Great Commission is being fulfilled, the message of Christ is being spread to every culture in the world, and through the work of Bible translators, more and more people groups are gaining access to the narrative of the birth of Christ. But while the celebration of Christmas naturally follows the spread of the Gospel, Thanksgiving has remained bound to our country and even been diminished due to some of its negative origins.
Certainly, some Thanksgiving songs exist – songs like “Jingle Bells” or “The Thanksgiving Song” by Ben Rector – but these are few and far between. That is if we view Thanksgiving music from the Western understanding of a holiday. But how were the Old Testament festivals and the Sabbath we observe today depicted in Scripture? They were designed to be special days of remembrance, to recall what the Lord has done in the past that impacts our present and will transform our future. How does that relate to Thanksgiving songs?
Two Hebrew words (yadah and towdah), commonly translated as “praise” throughout the Old Testament (especially the Psalms), also mean “thanks” or “thanksgiving.” As believers, we should “[t]hrough Jesus… continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess His name” (Heb. 3:15 NIV). The Greek word used here for praise? Ainesis, which can specifically mean a thank offering. In that case, we sing Thanksgiving songs all year round – in church, in Convocation, in Campus Community.
“There are no Thanksgiving songs.” Oh really? Let me show you the Psalms and the set list for this week’s Sunday service.
As you head home for Thanksgiving break, bump elbows at the table with cousins and your crazy uncle, and nap off your turkey coma, don’t forget to lift your voice in praise. I believe that Thanksgiving Day is the perfect time to bring out worship songs like “Gratitude” by Brandon Lake, “Thank You Jesus for the Blood” by Charity Gayle, and the classic “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.
Then when you return, get ready to turn up that Christmas music and display your amazing talent at our Christmas Open Mic on December 5th. The event starts at 7:00pm and will be held in the Montview Starbucks. We can’t wait to see you there!
Written by Moriah Joseph
Moriah is a sophomore dual major, studying Music & Worship and Elementary Education. She loves to spend her time experimenting on the piano, serving at her church, and hanging out with friends and family. But you also won’t hear her complaining about a good book, mountain views, or dark chocolate. She has always loved writing, so she is so happy to be a part of the Student Activities blog team!