How to Say Thanksgiving Grace
Editor's note: Mata, BlogHer's longtime and much-loved contributing editor on religion and spirituality, passed away in May of 2013. I can think of no better tribute than re-running this post she wrote in 2009, on giving thanks. -- Julie
The often-dreaded moment arrives. It is Thanksgiving and the family has assembled. Just before the eating begins, there is a silence. Grace. Do you say it? Do you not say it? It is Thanksgiving, after all, time to give thanks. But who says it, and what do they say? Oh, and whom do they thank?
First, if you are a believer, obviously your grace will most likely be said to God. But there may also be others to thank. If you are not a deist, there is still room for gratitude and taking time to say it out loud. It is a soulful gesture, regardless of one's tradition. And it feels good.
For some, saying grace is easy. A spontaneous, well-timed grace rolls off the tongue. For most of us, that isn't the case. There are some obvious options.
#1 - Pick someone in advance to say grace.
It's kinder if you give them a little advance notice to get their thoughts together. It doesn't have to be the head of the household. It might even be a child.
#2 - Perhaps everyone gets to say something.
Consider going around the table asking people to say what they are most thankful for. Not everyone is comfortable with this, so make sure that you let folks know that if they do not want to speak their grace, just to say "amen" or "thank you," and the turn will pass to the next person. That is pretty much what happens at Jodi's house. Saying Thanksgiving grace is a tradition, and here is what happens each year:
My husband then starts saying grace and it is passed on around the table each one of us saying what we are thankful for and my entire family always makes sure to add to their grace thanking me for preparing such a beautiful feast and for all the trouble I go through for them. My family always tells me they know I love them, because I have always made a safe home filled with love for them.
#3 - Write down things you are thankful for on strips of paper.
Put them in a bowl and pass them around the table during grace. Each person reads one thanksgiving out loud and passes the bowl to the next person.
#4 - Honor the family tradition.
Elise speaks about saying the traditional Catholic grace each year:
Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, for which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen.
That's our grace. Simple, isn't it? Yet whenever I hear it or say it, it means so much more. I feel my family, alive or long passed, with me at the table or in a city far away. For this one simple prayer ties us together through time and distance.
#5 - Explore grace from different traditions and different families.
about.com featured these three very different graces (among others):
Creator, Earth Mother,
we thank you for our lives and
this beautiful day. Thank You for the bright sun
and the rain we received last night.
Thank You for this circle of friends
and the opportunity to be together.
We want to thank You especially at this time
for the giveaway of their lives made by the
chickens, beets, carrots, grains and lettuce.
We thank them for giving of their lives
so we may continue our lives through this
great blessing.Please help us honor them
through how we live our lives.
FROM THICH NAHT HANH, A BUDDHIST MONK FROM VIETNAM:
This food is the gift of the whole universe - the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food so that we may realise the path of practice.
PAGANISM AND WICCA:
A Prayer to the Earth - Mealtime Blessing:
Corn and grain, meat and milk,
upon my table before me.
Gifts of life, bringing sustenance and strength,
I am grateful for all I have.
Julie and Peter have a fine blog entry that includes graces from several traditions. Julie adds:
My sense is that most families no longer include saying grace together as one of their family rituals. And yet, how do we teach our children where their food comes from, and how lucky they are to have food on their plates, without saying thank you out loud to the Earth and the Creator, the farmers, the cook(s), and the animals who gave their lives (if your family eats meat)?
Nikki McClure in an article in Yes Magazine provided these global graces:
All praises are due to Allah who gave us sufficient food to eat and who satiated our thirst while such food is needed by us all the time and while we are not ungrateful to Allah.
Before grasping this grain,
let us consider in our minds
the reasons why
we should care for and safeguard this body.
This is my prayer, oh God:
May I be forever devoted at your feet,
offering body, mind, and wealth
to the service of truth in the world.
Bless, O Lord, the plants, the vegetation,
and the herbs of the field,
that they may grow
and increase to fullness
and bear much fruit.
And may the fruit of the land
remind us of the spiritual fruit
we should bear.
Praised are You, our Lord, Ruler of the universe, who in goodness, with grace, kindness, and mercy, feeds the entire world. He provides bread for all creatures, for His kindness is never-ending. And because of His magnificent greatness we have never wanted for food, nor will we ever want for food, to the end of time.
For His great name, because He is the Lord who feeds and provides for all, and who does good to all by preparing food for all of His creatures whom He created: Praised are You, oh Lord, who feeds all.
This preview of Sarah McElwain's book, Saying Grace provides a variety of cross cultural blessings before and after meals, such as this one:
At this time, O Lord,
We are especially thankful for the golden ripe grain,
And for the hundred kind of red fruits.
Where do they come from? O Lord, they are thine.
I Blame Doris Day offers this grace:
Generous, loving God
Creator of the world we share
We ask you to give us today our daily bread
And as we store the crops
and fill the barns
stack the shelves
pile high the tins
and wander the aisles
of supermarket choice
Show us how to see the world
through the eyes of the hungry
Teach us how to share with all
Our daily bread
We all know that Thanksgiving is a sweet time to hear a child say grace. Nancy posts these true graces said by her children:
Hungry 8-year old's version:
"Who wants to say grace?"
"I do, I do!"
"OK, go ahead ..."
Clueless 4-Year Old's version:
"Thank you for this bounty we're about to receive...
Mom? Why are we praying about paper towels?"
Wiseguy 11-Year old's version:
Marina has been saying grace regularly.
I’ve been practicing saying grace at mealtimes. Giving thanks for the animals that gave their life for my food…thanks to the people who transported the food…the people who cooked it and the people I am eating with. I would say that, in general, this practice is making me feel more appreciative.
Clea tries to incorporate thankfulness in the overall life of her family. She speaks about grace and says:
Generosity is part of gratitude and giving; the other piece is appreciating what we have. I want to include saying grace at our table more regularly. When we do, we remember to thank the food itself. Since we garden and raise chickens, thanking the garden and the chickens who laid the eggs has a reality about it that my daughter gets. As she get older we will discuss where the rest of our food comes from as well. For now we thank the plants, the meat, the earth, the Sun, and the people who prepared the food.
So, what are your plans for grace this holiday season? Do you have any traditions about grace to share? Please share how you give thanks.
You can read Mata H's personal blog at Time's Fool.