Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Thanksgiving is upon us this month, and many of us will be working hard in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal of turkey and its supporting cast of delicious side dishes. Our focus may be on that fantastic meal and getting it all done just right, but sometimes the inner meaning of the holiday becomes a footnote. It’s important to remember the true meaning of this holiday- Giving Thanks. But what does that really mean? Let’s explore some of this and also consider creating a new family tradition to do so.
History books portrayed the first Thanksgiving as a time when the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Native Americans of Wampanoag came together in 1621 to celebrate with a feast to give thanks for the first harvest since the drought. Many have since debunked this, calling it pure fiction and propaganda. Others, like myself, choose to see the symbolism in this holiday of giving thanks and reflect upon our lives what we truly are grateful for.
For years, our family had a tradition of going around the table on Thanksgiving and saying what we all were grateful for. One year, I wrote the word ‘gratitude’ on a rock and brought it to the host of our family holiday, my sister. We each held the rock in our hands and thought about the past year and what things we truly were grateful for and passed this rock around the table. Some proclamations were funny such as my one younger niece saying ‘ice cream’ nearly every year, and some were tear-provoking, such as the gratitude we all felt having a family member present at the table after a major health scare.
Moving to another state and having family scattered around the country has changed our Thanksgiving, and for the past few years, I have celebrated ‘Friendsgiving’- a modern twist combining friends and Thanksgiving, with the premise that friends can also come together to celebrate this meaningful holiday. I brought a new rock to my host the first year and will continue to write ‘gratitude’ on rocks wherever I may land for the holiday and further this meaningful tradition.
I encourage each of you to look beyond the turkey and the ‘fixins’ this year and add some meaning into your own family holiday tradition. You don’t have to go online to Amazon and search for your own gratitude rock; simply pick one up that you like, grab a sharpie marker, and write gratitude on it. As you hold it in your hands, take a moment to truly reflect and think about what you are grateful for and blessed with in your life. Speaking these words to those around you and listening to theirs as well has a tremendous impact on our lives- this act of appreciating all the blessings and gifts we all share. Not to mention, this gratitude practice is healthy for our minds and our bodies. A daily gratitude practice improves our sleep, our heart health, stress-coping skills, and even our inflammation markers in our body, not to mention leads to a more positive and optimistic lifestyle.
Have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ EVERY day, not just on Thanksgiving. I have a rock by my bedside and start each and every day giving thanks to the gifts I am blessed with in my life. Sometimes, even stating gratitude for opening up my eyes and being blessed with the day ahead of me and all its possibilities. You can also purchase a notebook and keep a gratitude journal, writing down 2 or 3 things each day that you are grateful for. Or you can find an app on your smartphone to log in daily gratitude practice. I encourage you to consider starting your day in this way and also incorporating a gratitude rock-passing into your own family (or friends!) Thanksgiving meal.
*Here is an image from last year (2020)- during the pandemic I taught monthly donation-based Zoom Meditation classes to support others who were feeling like they needed a little lift during a stressful time. Not only did I reconnect with my friends/ family and former students/clients living all over the country, but I also met some new faces and collectively we raised funds for many different charities that were chosen to support their needs. Endless gratitude for that silver lining during a challenging time. <3
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-Susan Ginsberg, Stop and Breathe