Let’s say that one of the primary purposes of the ritual of Thanksgiving can be (it is not always) to enable deeper harmony within the human-earth family. The human-earth family is akin to our extended family. No particular family can exist without it.
When we gather, especially at such food-based ritual moments as Thanksgiving, we inherently are enacting (one might even say performing) and narrating with one another stories about who we are and our relationships with one another. Often implicit in those narrations are our relationships with the wider human-earth family - the people, plants, animals and places who might not be in the room but whom we impact and are influenced.
One of the most significant ways to increase our human-earth connection is to tell family stories, even fragments of stories, that can expand our sense of ourselves. This can be a key part of re-enchanting our world.
"We cannot restore the land without restorying the land." - David Abram.
Here are some simple re-enchanting story-telling prompts centered around the human-earth family. They can be used for conversation or for personal reflection.
What is the history of Thanksgiving on this land where you are gathered? Who might have been the first people to offer thanks? What were their names, their habits and their foods? Where are they now? What were the ranges of interactions between European settlers, their slaves and indigenous peoples in your area? What are your family histories about that engagement? (You might need to do research on this. If you already know this, then how can you tell these stories in ways that the rest of your family can engage in?)
When you think about ‘where my family comes from’, what stories emerge about the land, the waters and the food of that place/those places? If you don’t know any stories, look to the hidden transcripts buried in traditions and foods (Auntie’s famous pasta sauce, for example). What animals, birds, trees, landscapes, oceans, nature-turned-into-resource (cotton, wool, copper, lumber) or other ecological dimensions have impacted your family’s identity? This is a particularly good question for gatherings around the table.
In what ways is your body part of the human-earth family? How can you tell kind stories about your own body, and the bodies of your family members? Food is such a big part of Thanksgiving - but it is often coupled with body-shame. How can you listen to your body… and not sink into whatever patterns of shame (either of yourself or others) might still linger?
Some of these questions are harder than others - some will be easy and some less so. Regardless, find ways of staying connected. Keep it simple. Acknowledge. When in doubt, try to listen from a place of generosity, not trying to convince others to agree with you. Regardless of who is at the table and how much you like them, remember you are all held in a bigger picture, a bigger family of love.
National Geographic had a nice article on the history of Thanksgiving last year
This year the New Yorker has a good piece on The Invention of Thanksgiving by Harvard historian Philip Deloria (Dakota)
"Go Ahead. Eat your Feelings" - By our friend Christy Harrison, in the New York Times, on body shame and the evils of the diet culture
History of traditional Food at Thanksgiving