Ten Ideas for a Truly Thankful Thanksgiving
By Shiloh Sophia
Thanksgiving, for me, is very sensual. All of my senses having a day to enjoy. It is about the color of deep orange. Cinnamon. Pumpkin pie and too much cream. My mother’s photo albums. Listening to Lucinda Williams. It is about making my butternut squash coconut soup. About smelling the dinner cooking. Lighting candles. Creating sacred space. Holding hands with my sister. Smiling at my beautiful mom. The succulence of Sue’s Philo Chicken. Dancing with my aunt.
About our gratitude circle over dinner. A good glass of red wine. It is about the smell of the day that says these leaves have loved green and now they love being golden. It is about the walk after dinner and the air on our cheeks. It is about remembering what is true and not true about the origin of this day. It is about being grateful for our ancestors and the Native peoples from this land. Gratitude that I HAVE family to sit with. It is about being grateful for what has been and what is to come. About letting our community know just how important they are to us. About being grateful for what we have, a feast. And about remembering those who do not have what they need – and sending prayers – while still enjoying fully what I have. I wake up excited and begin to look in my closet for orange and brown and cranberry. And cowgirl boots.
I am on the way soon to pick up my sister Shannon, The Cinnamon Cowgirl and together we will travel to Cosmic Cowgirls to celebrate the day in style in the classroom/studio where so much of my work takes place.
We will serve our feast on the same tables upon which we paint year after year.
In this moment I want to GIVE THANKS for my communities, The Cosmic Cowgirls first and foremost, The Color of Woman, The Red Thread Nation, The Red Key, The Red Madonna and Sofia University. The places where my dreams come true alongside women like Jenafer Joy and Stella Mac and my family.
I am grateful that today I am committing at a new level to explore my faith and my relationship to the Divine…
Here is something I wrote a few years ago – and try to update it a bit each year.
With a toast of cinnamon coffee from my cup,
TEN IDEAS for TRULY THANKFUL THANKSGIVING
Our home is a sacred place that we blessed to share with others. Setting the energy of the home, and the day, and your mood will do “thankful wonders” to the environment, and the experience folks have when they share this day with you. I am speaking from experience, and my family knows when they are coming to my house for a holiday/holy day, they are going to experience something unusual, and now they are used to it and I think secretly welcome it.
In my family we have everyone from rednecks to witches to Christians to Yogis so while I cannot please everyone, most agree that gratitude is a supreme experience!!
Here are some simple ideas to bring in the sacred, which may seem challenging at first because we think folks won’t want to do them. Well not everyone will, but some will, and that will be enough. And it is a part of making this day, and all your holy days, your own. Hopefully one of these ideas will inspire you – or inspire you to make up your own ritual for your Thanksgiving Gratitude feast. I am not suggesting doing all of them, maybe just one…
1. Prayer Bowl:
After folks have arrived and have drinks and are settled in, enroll one of the younger guests to pass around pens and paper and a prayer bowl and ask folks to write down what that they are grateful for. Later in the evening – invite folks outside and burn/offer the prayers together, or do it in the fireplace, and either read one anothers or just put them in one by one.
By having one of the younger generation do it, they feel really important and good to participate and make adults do this, and also adults are less likely to say no to a younger person asking such a sweet thing of them.
2. Gratitude Circle:
Call a circle right before dinner to give thanks. Then once you are seated, take gentle control. and invite each person to share what they are grateful for as you all eat dinner. You start, and have one person next to you who is ready to share and is not surprised about this. (ignore any grumbling and forge ahead, it is so much more interesting than sports, or the weather or little Sally’s gymnastic class)
You may experience resistance at first, but they will get over it, and the table will be filled with love.
3. All My Relations Altar:
Set up an altar in a central place and put up photos of living family and well as family gone before. If you don’t have a photo you can write a list. And most especially write a list of who is coming, with the words, I Am Thankful For: Put out pens and paper and invite folks to participate. Whether they do or don’t they will see it and the spirit of blessing is there in physical form.
If it is not too late for you – you can also send a quick e-mail or phone call inviting folks to bring photos or mementos for the altar – or call it a family table if the word altar is too challenging.
4. Four Directions/Elements Sacred Environment
Create your environment with a sense of sacred space. Put candles everywhere, even if it is the daytime. Right by the candles float little tiny flowers from the yard or from a store bouquet on bowls of water or in little vases. Then put a feather, or something representing air if you want to. Then you have all the elements on your altar. No one else needs to know that this is – but they will see it and it will bless them. Do this if you can right before guests arrive and say a blessing around your home and a prayer to make yourself a wonderful host.
This can also in it’s own way, bring awareness to this holiday which for many has a mixed meaning-and while this is not the topic of my post – it bears researching and in my family we often talk about the “real” meaning for us and what really may have happened.
5. I Am Thankful Creative Space
Light candles and bring the spirit of beauty everywhere. Set up a table for creative expression. Get out pens, paper, glitter glue, crayons, scissors, hole punch, yarm and construction paper. Make time to start your own before guests arrive – if possible find a wall to hang up the art made that day and make a sign: THANKFUL GALLERY and the date, or your family name or something to make it special. Folks will naturally go on over, kids will be happy and it will create a playful thankful experience in your home.
If you don’t have a basket or drawer yet for theses supplies – now is the time. Do not go a week longer without having simple art supplies at your fingertips! Some families have written me that they also photocopy out of my journals and put those out for kids and adults to color!
6. Chocolate’ or Like Water For Chocolate – Contemplative Cooking
Sit down prior to cooking and write out your menu, then choose a theme or love topic for each menu item. Then when you are cooking it, say that prayer or a sentence regarding that essence which you are imparting to the food. Keep a notebook while you are cooking so you can come up with alternate new name and descriptions for the food. Then when you present the food you can tell the story of cooking it. Don’t forget to add chocolate to the gravy – just a little. And roses to some dish as well.
If you have not watched either of the two movies listed above – for a while – do that soon, and they are also good late night movies after dinner and guests are settling down or leaving.
7. Giving Thanks to Source, Our Creator and to your family.
If you have a chance, prior to guests arriving or even the day before, get out your journal or computer and write a prayer of thanksgiving. Make a list of 30 things you are thankful for.
8. Gratitude Walk
Taking a walk as a family is a wonderful experience. The leaves crunching beneath your feet and the smell of fire in the hearth or pumpkin pie in the oven wafting through the air. Walk through the streets of your town or neighborhood….notice all the beauty and greet everyone with cheer! In this case folks will fall into easy conversation with each other and it will still be a group experience while giving individual the chance to check in even sometimes more privately than in the house.
9. Giving Thanks to your Guests
During dinner, and afterward, or during the walk, make a point to not be too busy “doing” to not take time to tell each guest how important they are to you – and why and in what way. It only has to take a few minutes per person and it is usually such a blessing for that person – and for you.
1o. Listen to Your Own Heart
Remember to be present – to continue to bring your awareness to you own heart and life while everyone is doing whatever it is they are doing. In all of these it is easy to be too busy or lose your nerve. Choose one today and begin to get yourself ready by imagining yourself being brave and telling your family how much it would mean to you for you all to do: fill in the blank with ritual of your choice.This day is for everyone, but it is ALSO for you. Remember you this Holy Day of thanks…
Perhaps most important of all for a truly thankful thanksgiving is CHOOSING WHO YOU ARE GOING TO BE as a HOST – HOW and WHO you want to show up as. Consider your guests arriving, how will you greet them? Consider the folks you usually have tension with, how will you, from the start create that as something different this year?
How can you radiate peace, and not do too much? How will you ask for help and not show that you are stressed? How do you want to be perceived? Often we feel framed in advance by friends and family – as if they already have us figured out. Who cares? You can continue to transform and be who you want to be. A great trick is to choose powerfully, non-reactivity all day long.
Blessings to you this Holy Day of Thankfulness!
Many of us feel compelled to share something about the history/origins of Thanksgiving to put it in context. We can do this through mindfulness, and care, and compassion without serving guilt sandwiches. Folks are usually eager to learn about it, when it is done with a spirit of caring and education This is part of reclaiming the Holiday or Holy Days for ourselves, by understanding the origins and traditions, while at the same time making up new ones to make them our OWN.
“Thus you will be enriched in all things and in every way, so that you can be generous..”