Friday, November 16, 2012

How do you give thanks?

Thanksgiving prayer - 1942 (1)

Can you believe it's only a week until Thanksgiving Day? In the past 100 years or so, Thanksgiving has become much less of a time for giving thanks, and much more of a time to gear up for the crass commercialism of what is known as "the holiday season." So many have forgotten what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about.

Americans spend hundreds of dollars per family on Thanksgiving meals. The statistics are frightening. While it is still a time of getting family together, it's also a time of over-eating and excess. The 'thanks' is long gone for most, to our country's detriment.

Basting (2)
Instead of talking turkey this year, why not take the time to learn about the real history of our modern day Thanksgiving? Why not spend a bit of time in prayer, together, as a family? Why not take the time to think of others over this holiday?

There are several stories associated with Thanksgiving celebrations in American history. Most of them are not positive stories, not filled with joy and happiness, with peaceful Indians and joyful Pilgrims dining together. Most include massacres of some kind, stereotypes that range from silly to downright insulting, violent 'gratitude' by Pilgrims, and the death of thousands of Native Americans by plague and pox brought over by the Europeans.

These sad stories, horrible stories, need to be remembered. The Wampanoag tribe of Indians, the descendants of those met with the first Pilgrims in the 1600s, spend our Thanksgiving Day as a day of mourning over their lost people. For them, it is not a celebration but a funeral.

We don't live in the 1600s, though. We live here, today. It is important to remember the past, both horrors and gratitude, but we must also learn from it and move forward. There will always be those who celebrate football on Thanksgiving, and those who mourn the death of people 400 years ago. We can't (and shouldn't, in my opinion) attempt to change that. What we can do, and should do, is take back Thanksgiving as a time of interfaith prayer and gratitude, of true thanks.

Bush pardoning the turkey (3)
This time of year, as the weather gets colder, we spend more time indoors with one another. Stress levels go up, and being cooped up together sometimes means that colds and flus go through the family like wild-fire. This can add to the desire to spend Thanksgiving over-eating and ignoring one another, but it doesn't have to be so. There are many things we can do to alleviate the difficulties surrounding the Thanksgiving feast and its associated problems.

Remember, you don't have to roast a turkey. Not everyone does! If you want turkey but don't feel up to cooking a whole one, you can purchase a breast only, or even go out and buy a pre-cooked one. Alternatively, you can cook it a week or two ahead of the feast, and then thaw it and warm it in the oven for an hour or two before serving it (just don't stuff it if you're going to do this!). Perhaps you don't want anything to do with turkey, which is alright too. Pick up a ham, or even a pizza! Have a pot-luck meal instead of preparing it all yourself, and ask someone else to do the heavy cooking. Or go non-traditional and have turkey meatballs or turkey salad from the deli instead of a roasted turkey. There are so many options, so don't let your own sense of tradition or pride push you into something that isn't going to add to family harmony.

Take some time for yourself, either the day before or the day of Thanksgiving. Even ten minutes of quiet time in meditation or reading a favorite book or stitching away at your favorite craft will help with the pressure. Don't be afraid to ask the rest of the family to pitch in, either. Even small children can help out with decorations, putting tablecloths on, or setting out the plates and cutlery (though with small ones, avoid the knives).

Thanksgiving 1870 (4)
When you sit down to eat, have everyone hold hands for a moment. Acknowledge that, whoever you have around your table, they are a part of your spiritual family in some way. While there's no need for a long, religious prayer (unless you want one!), pausing to say thank you to everyone for their help, their support, and their love is a great way to begin a meal.

Don't rush through your food. The football game (and dessert) can wait until later. Relax and enjoy the fruits of the season that grace your table. Taste everything you want to. Chew slowly, and savor the flavors and the way they enhance one another. Enjoy the talk around the table, and join in as you feel called. Ask people politely to avoid contentious subjects while at the table, and stick to things that promote happiness. Share your successes, tell funny stories about your children when they were little or what Aunt Jillian did three years ago. Revel in family.

The two great classes (5)
If you happen to be part of American society that isn't living as fat off the hog as others, turkey may not be something you can afford (although at $0.49/lb at the moment, it might be time to pick some up!). Certainly the wide variety of fresh organic produce in the grocery store isn't always affordable for some of us. Whatever the situation you live in, this can still be a time for the giving of thanks. Dig deep, and find within you something that brings you joy or a smile, something that has bettered your life.

Whether you sit down to a six course meal or home-made mac'n'cheese doesn't matter. What does matter is that you are where you are. Your family might be husband and wife with 2.3 kids, or a gay couple and friends, or a mom and her children alone on Base because hubby is out fighting a war somewhere.

Take the time to be thankful. Take the time to say thank you. Remember to thank yourself, as well, for all you've done!

Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
You may also be interested in:

Crafts as a spiritual practice
The power of helping
And you've got a job...
Women of Faith
The Power of We 

1) Photo by Marjory Collins. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) / Wikimedia Commons
2) Photo by Ethan Lofton / Wikimedia Commons
3) Photo by  Chris Greenberg (White House) / Wikimedia Commons
4) Photo by American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1 / Wikimedia Commons
5) Image by Winslow Homer Collection / Wikimedia Commons

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