I hear all the English teachers I have had screaming as they read the title, “No! After only five months she has succumbed to the Chinglish that permeates her new home. How can this be?”
It is true that “Feel Grace Day” is not an English term. It is a character-by-character translation of the Chinese term for “Thanksgiving.” But I think it highlights an important truth about the nature of thankfulness.
In Chinese, most words are two syllables long, and each syllable has its own meaning. Native speakers are not always consciously aware of the meaning of each syllable, just like most English speakers don’t think of “hospital” as being related to “hospitality.”
The word for thanksgiving in Chinese is “gan’en,” and the holiday is “gan’en jie.” “Jie” means “holiday,” “gan” means “feel,” and “en” is grace.
I don’t think all Chinese terms make much sense when translated (for example, their word for “turkey” means “fire chicken”). But I think this one has a deep lesson.
I’m a little obsessed with the idea of grace. What it means is an undeserved gift. Something that we had no reason or right to expect, but that we receive anyway. Grace is central to the Christian message, because the whole point of Christianity is that we receive salvation because of what God has done for us, not what we do for God. But grace includes many other things that we experience in our lives.
What thanksgiving really is, is feeling grace. It’s knowing that we have received many things in our lives that we did nothing to deserve. As Americans, we tend to think in terms of our rights, but many things we need are not our right; they are things that no one was obligated to give us but that we have received anyway. God was not obligated to provide us with healthy bodies, sound minds, opportunities for education, loving families, comfortable lifestyles, oxygen or any of the things we take for granted. If you have received any of those things, that is grace, and it is something to be thankful for. Even things we earn are only possible because of things like talent and health which enable us to earn them.
So, with all my heart I wish you a happy “feel grace day.” May you enjoy what you have today and every day, and realize that every person on earth has received far more than we have earned.