Thanksgiving used to be one of those holidays I didn’t care much for. After all, it’s a feast-based holiday that doesn’t even fall close to a harvest time. It’s completely culture based; a celebration of our European ancestors‘ survival in the new world. Thanksgiving may seem redundant to us Pagans/Heathens who celebrate the themes of thanks-giving on other harvest holidays like Lughnasadh/Loaf-tide, the Autumn Equinox, and Samhain/Winter Nights.
But lately I’ve kind of gotten into the Thanksgiving spirit. What meaning can Pagans/Heathens derive from Thanksgiving? First in my thoughts are that it links us to our American culture (as opposed to ancient/ancestral culture) and our to our immediate family. It can also be a time to reflect on the other harvest holidays. But most of all, I agree with my daughter Manda when she says, “I like it because it’s a thing. We eat these certain foods just on this day, not any other time of the year.”
But I want to make this Thanksgiving more than just the food. For those of us not interested in football, Thanksgiving can turn out to be a rather boring holiday if we don’t strive to do something about it. So this year, I’ve decided to pep up our celebration a little.
The way I was raised, Thanksgiving was just about the feast, there was no praying or saying what you were thankful for. Now, not to knock other people’s traditions, but I always hated being a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving and being trapped into saying what I was thankful for. Being put on the spot like that really ruined a few holidays for me. I was trying to think of what a suitable alternative to this would be that would give the feast a bit more ceremony but not put anyone on the spot. So I came up with making toasts! I’m going to get out the goblets for our drinks and anyone who wants to can make a toast; to something/someone they like (or are thankful for), or a hail to a deity or ancestor, etc. I think it’s a great alternative to a formal prayer or statement of thanks, and will be lots of fun. And it’s not going to be a go-around-the-table-it’s-your-turn-you-have-to-do-it thing. Besides, it’s a good way to “heathen it up”; the International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture says toasting “is probably a secular vestige of ancient sacrificial libations in which a sacred liquid was offered to the gods…”
After the toasting, I thought it would be nice to have some good Thanksgiving themed music to listen to while we eat. But there’s a serious lack of decent Thanksgiving songs (compared to Xmas) except for Christian hymns (forget that!). However, I did a little searching for pop songs with a thankfulness or harvest theme, or just songs that seemed to have a Thanksgiving mood attached to them. Here is the play list I came up with:
The Thanksgiving Song – Adam Sandler (so silly, maybe a little inappropriate, but had to include it)
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Thank You – Led Zeppelin
Corn Rigs – Paul Giovanni (The Wicker Man)
Turn!Turn!Turn! – The Byrds (I know its Biblical, but I like it anyway)
Thanksgiving Theme – Nince Guaraldi Trio (Peanuts Thanksgiving)
Kind and Generous – Natalie Merchant
Lovely Love my Family – The Roots
In My Life – The Beatles
John Barleycorn – Steeleye Span
Be Thankful for What You’ve Got – William DeVaughn
Thank U – Alanis Morissette
The Scythe – Gaia Consort
Meadowlarks – Fleet Foxes
Oh and the food! You know, I’ve seen a lot of recipes that try to take the usual Thanksgiving fare and “fancy it up”, or combine two or more dishes (pecan pumpkin pie, chocolate chip pecan pie, etc.), but we usually like to have the classics… roasted turkey (not ham, that’s for Ostara!), crock-pot cornbread dressing, green bean casserole with French fried onions, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, and of course pumpkin pie (never forget the cool whip!) and pecan pie. The only thing I’m fancying up this year is the sweet potatoes; instead of making our usual candied sweet potatoes (never mashed, never marshmallows!), I’m going to make roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon meringue topping. I’m also reviving my old recipe for a fresh (uncooked) cranberry sauce; it’s basically fresh cranberries ground up with an orange, maybe an apple, and some sugar.
I found out the hard way years ago that I hate having all the food on the table and having to pass it around. When I was a kid I was impressed by the iconic image of all the food dishes on the table- we had every meal “buffet style”. Now I know why. Also, when I was growing up, we always had our Thanksgiving meal at noon (dinner), then the leftovers for Supper. We still do. Maybe it’s a Southern thing. Recently I heard that some people save the whole thing for the evening?! I don’t know how anybody can wait that long.
And of course there are other things that make the holiday more to our liking… its fun to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV while the food is cooking. It wouldn’t quite be the same without it. We never used to snack before the big meal on Thanksgiving, but I saw a snack mix recipe I thought would be neat to have between dinner and supper that includes bugles and candy corn.
Then later, if the weather is nice and if we’re not all zonked out on tryptophan, we could go outside and take pictures in the fall foliage, or play Pokean, a Zuni shuttlecock game that’s kind of a cross between hackey-sack and badminton.
More likely though, we’ll want to veg in front of the TV. I’d like to see “Leif Ericson: The Boy Who Discovered America”. If its good maybe it will become one of our Thanksgiving traditions. Another idea is starting a collection of Thanksgiving episodes of favorite TV shows. I thought of this after watching the Thanksgiving episode from season four of Buffy the vampire Slayer. Classic.