Yesterday was Thanksgiving. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had a very small celebration that felt more like a weekend family meal than a once-a-year holiday feast. Still, it was a blessing to spend the day with my husband, son, and parents. I am more grateful for them than I have ever been. In speaking with friends and scrolling through social media posts, it seems that this kind of celebration and the feelings of gratitude for people and moments often taken for granted are more abundant this year as we all learn to live with less.
Last week, a client told me that she’d be spending her Thanksgiving at home with her husband and daughter. In their home, they share family dinners every night and make a practice of saying thanks before eating. She wondered how to make this year’s Thanksgiving feel different from every other evening’s meal. I offered a few suggestions: cook something special together, dress up, tell a Thanksgiving story.
Yesterday I thought more about the stories that have been told about Thanksgiving and about what story I might tell my son about this holiday. For the past few weeks, I have been reading Braiding Sweetgrass, a beautifully written book by a Native American botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer. One of the essays in this collection of thoughts about her life as an observer and student of nature, indigenous person, and mother beautifully describes the Thanksgiving Address used by the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) at gatherings.
While this prayer is worth saying many days of the year, I think it is particularly appropriate for the harvest holiday that is so fundamentally American. While Thanksgiving is viewed by the majority of the population as a joyous time, it is also a day of mourning for some Native tribes. What better way to honor the lives that were lost to colonization than to integrate the cultural language of these people into the lives of our children – bringing the beauty of gratitude for all life into the collective consciousness of the future.
I’ve decided that next year, and every year after, on Thanksgiving our family will speak the Haudenosaunee prayer before eating our meal to remember, to give thanks, and to bring our minds together as one.
(image credit: Seed Savers Exchange)