Return home

COLUMN: Gratitude should bring you joy, peace

Rev. Katie Yahns, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 11/12/22

Some friends and I were discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this week and remembering Thanksgivings of the past — sometimes with a groan, sometimes with a chuckle.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

COLUMN: Gratitude should bring you joy, peace


Some friends and I were discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this week and remembering Thanksgivings of the past — sometimes with a groan, sometimes with a chuckle. Food was part of the discussion; non-traditional Thanksgiving foods seemed to be the most popular! However, we spent more time talking about the actual dishes that were used on our families’ tables growing up.

For many with large family gatherings, Thanksgiving was a day when all the good china, crystal and silver was brought out and wiped down, brightened up, or polished for the big feast. Certain things were used at no other time during the year but Thanksgiving: the cut glass pickle and olive dish, the silver pie server, the porcelain gravy boat.

Details like the weight of an extraordinarily heavy linen napkin on your lap told even the smallest child at the table that this day was special and not to be changed.

In some families, Thanksgiving was an opportunity to pull out all the stops and show off what they had. It was a day to enjoy the finer things of life. In other families, it was about gathering everyone together, even when being together brought out some tense or unhealthy family dynamics.

Some families actively practiced radical hospitality, making it clear that there was always room for one more at the table. Others shared that they preferred to celebrate their gratitude more simply, choosing to spend Thanksgiving alone or in smaller groups with friends.

It seems that we all have a picture in our minds of what the perfect Thanksgiving would be. But there is no one right way to do Thanksgiving. There truly are as many different ways to celebrate this holiday as there are different kinds of people and different kinds of family dynamics.

In my family, we always kept the Thanksgiving gathering small and understated because it was the time of year when my grandfather died, over 40 years ago. As I grew up, I found that I preferred the smaller meal, leaving the larger gatherings for Christmas and Easter. Gatherings like Thanksgiving remind us that families and family histories are complicated.

Maybe this is the year to take time before the actual day arrives and the plans are finalized to think and reflect about what you really want Thanksgiving to be this time around. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving traditions and devote time and effort to make them special. But how often does the image of a “perfect” holiday cause us to feel bad when the reality is somehow less than that? How often do we repeat unhealthy patterns because we think that for some reason, that’s just the way it always has to be?

If you come to the conclusion that Thanksgiving needs to be different this year, that is perfectly fine. Rediscover your roots in the family traditions if that’s what you need. Just don’t let the heaviness of the napkins or the dishes that “we’ve always used” or “the way we’ve always done it” weigh you down.

It’s supposed to be a day about gratitude, that spiritual practice of giving genuine thanks to God or to whatever force you credit for giving us the gift of life, and gratitude should ideally be something that lightens our spirits, and brings us joy and peace.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here