Although Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of giving thanks and appreciating the good things we have, I have sat at many a Thanksgiving dinner and witnessed fighting, sarcasm, and tension. These are the kinds of dinners that will leave you feeling anxious, stressed out, and wondering what this holiday is really about.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can have an engaging and loving Thanksgiving with your family and leave with a smile on your face instead of a frown.
Here are five ways to bring your family together this Thanksgiving:
1. Cook Together
One of the biggest causes of built up tension on Thanksgiving is one person doing all the work, while the rest lie around and wait to be served. I know how this feels; I’ve been the one slaving away in the kitchen up to my eyeballs in peeled potatoes. Last year, my husband joined me in the kitchen at 8:00 a.m., and we cooked together throughout the day. I called him my sous chef and we danced around to 80’s tunes as we chopped vegetables and mixed gravy. Not only was it fun, but it also created a more heartfelt meal. The food was cooked with love. When we sat down to eat, everyone was complimenting the meal, saying how great it tasted. That’s what happens with less stress and more love.
2. Play the Acknowledgement Game
This year, two friends taught me a wonderful game you can play with family or friends. It’s called the Acknowledgement Game, and it works like this. Everyone sits in a circle (or around the table) and you each have a turn to acknowledge one person in the room for something that you admire in them. The rules are, you only can only pick one person, and then that person has the chance to pick another person. You can’t pick someone who has already gone and the final person to be picked, get’s to acknowledge the first person that started the game. When someone is acknowledging you, you must just smile and listen then you can say, “I receive,” when they are done. By the end of the game everyone is smiling and feeling the love.
3. Leave Drama at the Door
It’s easy to walk in to Thanksgiving dinner with hostility or stress, but try to leave it behind you for the evening. Pick your battles! There will be other opportunities to bring up issues with individual family members and now is not the time. There will always be one cousin, who wants to talk about conspiracy theories, and your uncle who wants to yell about politics, or your grandma who makes snide comments about the cooking. Forgive them for their behavior and love them just the way they are—flaws and all. We can’t change people; we can only change our reactions. When I learned this, everyone started commenting on how relaxed and worry-free I had become. That’s because I realized that the biggest journey was my own and I am thankful for everyone (and every family member) I have encountered along the way.
4. Take a Walk
I thoroughly believe that walking is good for your soul. We live in a society that is so hectic and noisy, sometimes you just need silence. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to go take a walk before dinner all by yourself. Listen to your feet on the pavement, breathe in the crisp fall air, or just get lost in your old neighborhood. Not only is walking a good way to jump start your metabolism, but it’s also a great way to meditate. It’s called walking meditation, and what better way to keep calm and remember the essence of the holiday season than to take time to be introspective. Being alone can actually help you be present for other people in your life.
5. Bless the Food
Even if you aren’t religious, giving thanks for the food you are about to eat is a great practice to introduce (or continue) in your household. Blessing food is a practice that occurs all over the world in hundreds of cultures and traditions. When you really think about the work that went into the food and the fact that there are starving people in this world, you are really left humbled and grateful. Ask each family member to mention their favorite plate of food on the table, and then all together give thanks for that dish. Or choose an ancient prayer or saying to bless the food. My favorite is this Buddhist prayer:
“We receive this food in gratitude to all beings
Who have helped to bring it to our table,
And vow to respond in turn to those in need
With wisdom and compassion.”
From my family to yours have a beautiful and heartfelt Thanksgiving.
About the Author
Suki Eleuterio is a writer, yoga teacher, and poet living in sunny South Florida. As the creator of Found My Light, a homepage for spiritual enlightenment, she loves to surround herself with beautiful people in beautiful places and inspire everyone she meets to follow their own inner light. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Feature picture: Onyonet Photos
Main picture: Marit Karp