Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It celebrates tradition, family, friendship and good food! It brings out a spirit to show gratitude for our good fortune and giving to those who are less fortunate.

Before carving the turkey this Thanksgiving many of us will give thanks, and perhaps reflect on the blessings God has given us over the past year. Gratitude is a great thing, but if we’re just counting our blessings and stopping there, we’re not being good Christians. In the midst of our feasting on November 23rd, we need to be remembering the poor and oppressed in the world, and hopefully making commitments to share our blessings with them.  An important part of out role on this earth is not just giving thanks, but giving back.

As a child I remember learning of how the Pilgrims were thankful to the Indians for showing them how to plant corn and helping them survive their first winters in the new land. But, how much do we hear about Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of the first “official” Thanksgiving? He requested that the American people set apart the last Thursday in November as a day “to be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people … as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” That’s the way it happened in 1863. In the midst of a bloody civil war, he reminded Americans that there was a bounty and a multitude of blessings to be thankful for. And they did, and we continue this fine tradition even today.

For many, we are in the thick of the toughest times so it’s difficult to embrace gratitude. It may not be easy to couple gratitude with tough lessons, but until we’re able to embrace that union as a powerful one, we can’t truly be receptive to growth. I’m grateful for the tough lessons; those lessons have opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart. It is from the toughest lessons that I’ve grown the most.

This Thanksgiving, I suggest taking the following steps to help get into the spirit of Thanksgiving. First, before the meal even begins, go around the table and give each person a chance to offer gratitude for at least one thing. Begin simply by saying, “Something I’m grateful for is….” and fill in the blank. Let people share as many specific things for which they are grateful for. They can continue after their first sharing by saying, “And something else I’m grateful for is…” If someone’s turn has passed and they suddenly think of something else they want to add, let them do so between other people’s turns or at the end. This practice will set the whole tone of your meal. And don’t let anyone off the hook. Everyone must share at least one thing for which they feel grateful.

How about asking your guests to bring to the table their favorite quotes or stories about being grateful or about Thanksgiving itself. During the meal, take turns reading these aloud. It’s nice to hear the words of others or to share touching memories about a holiday. It gives depth to this Thanksgiving holiday, and a positive overall feeling to the celebration.

With just a little effort, you’ll find you can fill your Thanksgiving experience with a heaping portion of gratitude. I promise the food on your plate will taste that much sweeter and simply delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Chef Mary