How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? With particular foods: a turkey, oyster dressing, yams, pecan pie, cranberry sauce from a can, or kookie Aunt Marge’s odd side dish that no one ever ate but everyone would protest if it wasn’t present? Do you start the day with a hunt or a run? Perhaps you go to the beach or the Delta or the mountains? Will you watch a certain football game? Maybe Thanksgiving is always at a particular relative’s house?
Are your Thanksgiving traditions less … traditional? Will a “tofurky” join the menu this year? Maybe you celebrate the increasingly popular Friendsgiving, with or without a family gathering to follow? Perhaps you can’t get home because of work or service? Is your Friendsgiving more of a necessity because your blood kin have rejected you, or you need a boundary between you and them? Is this the first year with a certain empty chair and that is going to be excruciating?
Regardless of how we mark the day, the common denominator in most of the above is the act of gathering. We gather. We gather around food, we gather in a particular place, we gather with those we love. As the old Dutch hymn sings, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.”
We gather because what we are most thankful for is not a roast beast or an old house, but people, family (however you define family), the crowd, those with whom you feel safe, beloved ones. A Thanksgiving celebration is fairly malleable actually, as long as our people are with us (physically, or sometimes virtually or spiritually). Even the Church’s thanksgiving, the Great Thanksgiving (a.k.a. the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper), can be celebrated anywhere as long as there are people to gather, give thanks, and receive the bread and cup.
So, as we gather once again, be sure to tell those with whom we gather how much we love them and how thankful we are for them. In the hustle and stress of other traditions, we can forget to say what is truly in our hearts. As the Swiss philosopher and poet Henri-Frédéric Amiel once wrote, “Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the journey with us. So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.”
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my fellow travelers, especially the beloved sisters and brothers in Christ who gather at the Chapel of the Cross. I pray your day is blessed with a gathering of beloved people. Don’t forget to tell them how much you love them.
Keep the faith,