Hello again! This year, we were blessed to gather together to give thanks with 14 family members. My sister-in-law is an amazing and generous cook, who blesses us with her talents every year. She even cooked the turkey at home and brought it with her to serve at our home! Everything was yummy, even the slightly—shall we say—“tinged” topping on my sweet potatoes. My cranberry and vanilla pavlova didn’t turn out either, but that gives me something to work on for the future. I need to ask my Australian friend, Nicole, for her secret!
I wanted to share just a few of our Thanksgiving Traditions with you, and pray that they might bless your own lives. We begin each Thanksgiving Day with Mass. I have always loved the Thanksgiving Mass, with its drumbeat repetition of giving thanks found in all the scripture readings for the day, and I love all the hymns that are often sung at this Mass. “Let All Things Now Living,” “Now Thank We All Our God,” “For the Beauty of the Earth” and more—they all just speak to me of the wonder of God’s abundant blessings in our lives, and my heart swells with each verse. I would not be surprised to find that I am probably smiling throughout all the songs. I love that Thanksgiving is a universal time of gratitude, that ideally can be a time of unity for family and friends alike. Having come though such a tough election cycle, I know many family holidays were far from harmonious, but hope springs eternal! On Thanksgiving, we celebrate all of life’s gifts—family, friends, food, life, health, even religion and politics!
But sometimes, giving thanks can be a challenge. Like exercising an infrequently used muscle. Some years ago, I read about a way to help jump-start the process of giving thanks—out loud—on Thanksgiving Day and it has proven to be a great blessing to our family. As the table is set for the meal, three popcorn kernels are placed next to each plate. The first year we tried this, we offered some explanations, but it took off very easily. Very simply, each kernel is worth one “thanksgiving,” so someone might simply raise up a kernel and say, “I am thankful for my family,” and another, “I am thankful for my health.” But of course, we have also heard a great variety of blessings shared, as over the years some family members have become mindful of stretching themselves and giving thanks for the unexpected, or even the trials. As people share, a very small little basket is passed around so that the kernels can be gathered up as the thanksgivings are shared. We have done this for enough years now that some family members have talked about anticipating this ritual for days or even longer, knowing that they will be sharing their gratitude with the whole gathering. It’s very special when even the quiet teenagers, or perhaps the less than expressive spouse, shares their “thankful for’s.” They may even be grateful for you! For a time, I even took to recording people’s “three things” but I am not always consistent in being able to put my hands on the Thanksgiving journal when the time comes. It has been especially sweet, though, to record the gratitude of those family members who will never again join us at our table.
Father Romano Guardini once referred to gratitude as a “gradually disappearing virtue,” and I believe this is very true in our modern world of presumption and self-centered expectation. Even when the people gathered around my table profess a broad range of beliefs, practicing gratitude is a virtue we can all benefit from. With this post coming after the Thanksgiving weekend, one simple way you might put this into practice before next Thanksgiving is to encourage your family members to share “one good thing” at the dinner table each night, or even begin with sharing just once a week at Sunday brunch or dinner. Helping those you love to exercise that too-often weak muscle of gratitude will reap benefits for everyone in the family. Hopefully, by next Thanksgiving, they’ll struggle to limit themselves to three things!
God bless your day, K.
I am a homeschooling mom of six kids, married to a patient, supportive, and crazy smart husband, whom I met on the internet in the days of screaming modems. Raised on the east coast, I am happily raising my family in the midwest. I love to collect and share traditions, recipes, prayers, crafts, and activities for living out the Catholic Faith in my home and family.