Thanksgiving

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 
- Charles Dickens 

Be Grateful:

The practice of gratitude reminds us to focus our attention on what’s right in front of us. What we dwell on - we manifest, so it benefits us to acknowledge the good in our lives. 

Gratitude requires practice when it’s easy and even more practice when it’s difficult. 

~ A thankful heart breeds contentment. It appreciates the many gifts of life itself.
~ A thankful heart promotes optimism. Optimism leads to enthusiasm and determination.
~ A thankful heart brings healthy attentiveness. It finds time to slow down and count blessings.
~ A thankful heart shifts the focus of attention from ourselves to others. It understands that our lives have been enriched by them.
~ A thankful heart is more likely to help others. It humbly realizes it has benefited from others and as a result, is more apt to notice needs.
~ A thankful heart attracts generous people and faithful friends.

We tend to mistake gratitude an emotion of the heart - a feeling. When things are going well, it’s easy to respond with a thankful heart - but when things are difficult, thankfulness never even enters our mind. 

We would be better off considering gratitude a discipline of the heart — an action - one that requires attention and consistent practice. 

Mindfulness is our ability to attend to the present moment, with curiosity and without judgment. It is a life skill that promotes well-being, concentration, resilience, and empathy. Be mindful when practicing gratitude. 

Appreciate the abundance in your life. Being grateful is an energizing way to start your day and a relaxing way to end it. Sometimes a quick visual reminder is all you need to bring you back to a place of thankfulness and abundance.

It is good we have a holiday – a holy day – dedicated to gratitude. Give thanks to your gods and goddesses, to your ancestors, to your family and to your community. Give thanks for all you enjoy, and remember that things could be very different. Then commit yourself to practicing mindful gratitude everyday throughout the year.



The History of the Feast and Why the Pilgrims were Celebrating:

The Pilgrims were a small group of Separatists who broke away from Puritan movement in Britain to start a “perfect” new world. They suffered many hardships on their voyage across the Atlantic and during that initial year in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The Native American Mashpee Wampanoag tribe took pity on these pilgrims and taught them how to plant crops successfully - this led to the first Thanksgiving feast which was celebrated in October of 1621. It lasted 3 days. It was attended by "90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims". This feast was a celebration that the colony was going to make it (thanks to the Wampanoag) and was influenced by the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

"Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field." -Exodus 23:16  

Sukkot (Feast of Booths) observes the 40+ years of Exodus when the children of Isreal wandered the desert, living in temporary shelters (booths). Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as the Festival of Ingathering. The harvest festival, although celebrated at different times of the year and with different foods, is something found in every culture around the world  - so the Native Americans and the Pilgrims were not only sharing a meal, but a tradition from both their worlds.

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" in 1863. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since.




 
We have sown, we have tended
We have grown, we have gathered
We have reaped a good harvest
Lady, we thank you for your gifts
Lord, we thank you for your bounty

At this time of year, the land changes as the leaves, grasses, and other plants turn the most astounding colors. To help get us in a festive mood for the holiday feast, use the abundant gifts of nature to decorate your harvest table.

The Table:

Because this Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in the generosity of the Native people, here are some beautiful ideas for decorating the table with the Four Directions:
- Identify the four directions in your dining room. 
- Choose objects and colors that relate to the energies of each direction:
  • North: The Sky - blues, purples, white to represent the North snows. The Four Winds, Cold, Calm, A Deer, A Hawk, A Star, Mountain Laurel, Mint, Periwinkle, Tomato, Witch Hazel
  • South: White, Green, Innocence, Youth, A Child's Artwork, Balsam Fir, Bay, Beets, Native American Corn, Ferns, Goldenrod, Gourds, Holly, Horse Chestnuts, Moss, Pumpkin, Walnuts.
  • East: Red or Yellow to Represent the Sun, Family, Mother Earth, Womb, Love, Relationships, Dried Sunflowers, Heart Stones, Birch Bark, Juniper, Lavender, Maple and Oak Leaves, Rosemary, Thyme, Sassafras Leaves, Tobacco
  • West: Black, Sacredness, Darkening of the Land, Setting of the Sun, Protection of the Moon, Water, Cleansing, Animal Medicine, A Bear, Apple, Beans, Black-Eyed Susan, Carrot, Cedar, Cranberry, Grapes, Willow
Centerpiece and Table: Pumpkins, squashes, gourds. A cornucopia filled with Native American corn, acorns, nuts, grapes, pears, pomegranates, and apples.

- A perfect branch bearing colored leaves set into an earthen vase.
- Thick Oak Leaves make great coasters.
- Tuck a cinnamon stick into the napkin rings for hot cider at the end of the meal. 

The Thanks:

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, family and faith. Typically centered around a shared meal, it is a time of community, spiritual connectivity and praise. 
“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Give Thanks to the Goddess for the gifts you've received this year. We have been blessed, so we make offerings and pour libations. We sing the praises of our Gods and ancestors, and of our Great Mother the Earth. Make a list and find objects to represent what you're thankful for. Display them around your centerpiece and hang them from your seasonal tree.

Many families go round the table and announce what they are thankful for. You might also ask everyone to simply talk about the things that they are thankful while they feast.