November 23, 2010
Twelve Ideas for a Thankful Thanksgiving
by Gregg Krech
For many people Thanksgiving has ceased to be a celebration of thankfulness. Too often it is dominated by the pressures of family reconnecting, the worries over the meal, the seduction of football games and the overindulgence in an excess of food. Even if it is an enjoyable occasion, it may still do little to help us reflect on the good fortune of our lives and express our gratitude for those blessings.
So how do we reclaim a Thanksgiving spirit in our celebration of Thanksgiving? Here are a few ideas for changing how the day is designed. Not everybody will wish to participate in these activities, but you can suggest them and make sure you create enough opportunities for yourself to not only enjoy the holiday, but use it as a rekindling of gratitude as we launch the holiday season.
1. Invite those who are joining you for the holiday to bring a reading or quote that represents the spirit of Thanksgiving,
2. Create a Blessing Box, fill it with your favorite blessings, and put it on the table at dinnertime. If you are sharing your meal with others, take turns selecting and reading a blessing. This is also a great idea for a holiday gift.
3. Spend 30 min. of quiet time in the morning reflecting and making a list of all the ways your life has been blessed this past year. Invite other members of your family to join you, even children.
4. While you are cooking, reflect on all the efforts and lives that have been given to make your meal possible. Consider all the objects and types of energy that give you the opportunity to cook. Keep your attention focused on what you are doing and what makes it possible for you to do those things.
5. At the beginning of the meal say a grace. (See our Thanksgiving Blessings Entry for samples).
6. Have a bell available on the table (or suggest that people clink a glass) that allows people to signal when they have something they would like to read or share with the group. When the person reads, everyone should pause from eating and listen. The readings should be short, a paragraph or less. This allows the spirit of Thanksgiving to continually arise while everyone eats.
7. At the end of the main meal, say another grace or blessing.
8. After the meal, invite people to get together and share some of their own reflections on what they are grateful for and who has been a supportive and helpful presence in their lives this past year.
9. Make phone contact with a family member or friend that could not attend the meal and express some kind of appreciation to them for what they’ve done for you in the past.
10. Do something for others, individually or as a group. Deliver a pie to a neighbor, make a contribution to a good cause, feed the birds or other animals. Do something to actively pass on your gratitude for your good fortune to others.
11. If there are people joining you for the holiday who you find irritating, make a special effort to gravitate towards them (rather than avoid them) and be kind to them. Say something nice and be willing to listen to their troubles with a compassionate heart. Find some quality in them that you can appreciate and which may have been hidden by your attention to other more irritating characteristics. In other words, leave some good karma behind where it is most needed.
12. At bedtime, do daily Naikan reflection as you look at the holiday experience. Use the framework of Naikan's 3 questions:
a. What have I received from others today?
b. What have I given to others today?
c. What troubles and difficulties have I caused others today?
For further reading see
Thanksgiving and the Spirit of On by Gregg Krech
Gregg Krech is the author of several books including the award winning book, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-refelction (Stone Bridge Press). More of his writing can be found at