Thanksgiving can be a stressful holiday, with the fattening stressful mix of intense cooking, intense cleaning, visiting relatives and the hard push of the TV, only the 32 days until Christmas, how do we make this holiday a day of blessed sacred time? By following the Saints, Saint Mary in being present and in awe of Jesus, and Saint Martha and being the hands and feet that prepare the feast out of love for others, love for Christ.
1. Invite your family and friends and ask them to each bring a dish for the meal that means something in their family tradition. Follow Christ’s advice to Saint Martha, ”Don’t be anxious.” about making everything perfect. Let guests participate in the preparations. Sharing recipies from their history is part of the joy of creating and passing on tradition. It lets you be both a gracious giver and receiver of the meal (a good moral lesson of the holiday). If it is just your family, let each family member prepare one of the things for the meal, even if it is crescent rolls or cranberry jelly in a can.
2. Prepare a parallel giving. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. Part of what we are thankful for, is our own posterity. Ergo, giving to make someone else’s Thanksgiving memorable fits perfectly with celebrating this great American Tradition. Check out your local food pantry program to donate and let your little children bring the groceries in to the place. They will shine with gratitude for the opportunity. If you have older children, ask if you can help serve. Washing other peoples’ feet is a great way to demonstrate to your family, we are called to serve first. It will also set the table for your own meal, by making you fully grateful for the feast you are about to receive.
3. Go to mass on Thanksgiving before you cut into the Turkey. You’ve got at least 4 hours before the meal, the games aren’t until the afternoon and tryptophans will send you into a food coma at some point in the afternoon. Going to mass as a family to give thanks harkens back to the beginnings of this tradition and our Liturgy of the Eucharist is a Thanksgiving meal every time. It is the choosing of the better portion. What could be more appropriate?
4. Play ball. Our family has the annual turkey classic before dinner: The Gorillas vs. the Wolves. Our oldest 4 children pride themselves in being undefeated, while my husband and I plus the four younger eligible for play have scored moral victories over the years with legendary tackles that were supposed to be touch and passes that somehow displayed supernatural grace influenced the outcome. God had to put that ball in my hand. There’s no way I should have caught it. I know me. It makes for an annual tradition of bragging rights, boasts, good humor and stories that will live long after we stop using the back yard as a grid iron.
5. Count your blessings. At the dinner table, come with a notepad (not a laptop), and record what each person is grateful for this year. The thanks will flow along with the wine and the gravy. Then date the list, have everyone sign it and mail it to yourself for next year to recall the blessings of the past. In addition to providing everyone with the moment to consider what all we have to be grateful for, you will have a permanent record of the memory. (We put the score from the family turkey football classic on that page too).
Lastly, when the pie has been served, when all of the business of the Holiday has passed, recognize that we live in a blessed land where every year, we stop. We gather with family and friends. We feast and we give thanks to God for all we receive, for all of these gifts that so often, we take for granted. Thank God for this gift of our home. Say Grace after meal to remember, God is good. God is Great. God is Love. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.