Tomorrow is November 22, 2012, Thanksgiving Day. Per tradition, it is considered a time to gather, feast, and to express gratitude. For those who watch television or receive store emails, it is the start of the mega-shopping fest season: Black Friday and now Black Thursday. It seemed appropriate to ask some local pagans how they plan to celebrate and how they feel about the holiday in general. Is it just a shopping holiday, a time to over-consume food or is it the end of a harvest season, a time of family, and a mulit-cultural, multi-religious holiday?
What do you plan to do for this Thanksgiving? How do you think of Thanksgiving?
Jill: I think of it as kind of a family holiday, even though one half of my family prays and one half doesn’t. One half is Christian and one-half is Atheist; I’m pagan and it’s awkward. I enjoy it we get together as a family. I hardly ever see my family because they work so much. I’m very thankful. Because it’s Thanksgiving, I like to think of it as a moment to reflect upon how how I am thankful. Even though I have had a lot of tough times in my life, I still have my family. I’m thankful for them. Even though my family fights sometimes, it’s still nice being able to get together with them and we all work it out eventually.
Liz at Magus Books: “We have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving in our household: jelly beans, toast, straight pretzels, popcorn, and a sundae. I’m not kidding. Given that as an American holiday, folks sit down, Thanksgiving is truly multi-cultural.
Thracie at Eye of Horus: I spend time at my mother’s with turkey and mashed potatoes.
Tamara: I come from a nice sized family that still gets together every holiday. Before my Grandmother passed away, holidays were reorganized so that every adult with a house large enough to squeeze in our extended family took a turn hosting a holiday. This ensured that many of us learned how to carry on the traditions that wove us together and the future of our family was therefore invested broadly rather than around one central matriarch. I think this has helped us maintain a cohesive family. Our gatherings are therefore decentralized, still have firm structure and we maintain a rhythm that keeps us visiting each others homes. It makes for a good weave.
Every other Thanksgiving is at our house and has been for 16 years now. This Thanksgiving we are expecting about 20 people and are looking forward to it!
I think a time to reflect on gratitude is a beautiful and spiritual thing. The Thanksgiving Holiday itself is a time for my husband and me to visit our parents without religious differences coming into the conversation, and there’s no hurt feelings about whether or not to attend their church.
Beth: I always happily spend Thanksgiving with my family of origin. For as long as I can remember, my mother has hosted a huge Thanksgiving meal in her home for about 20 members of our extended family, replete with turkey, stuffing, my grandmother’s mashed potatoes and gravy, and plenty of pies. We take time out for our routines to eat, catch up on recent events, watch football (well, people who are bigger sports fans than me watch football, anyway), and just enjoy each others’ company. I look forward to it all year, and I am definitely also going to enjoy introducing my 9-month-old child to it for the first time this year.
LionLord: As a Pagan I see Thanksgiving as a holiday for family to come together, as it was tradition that my family got together even before I came out of the Broomcloset. It was mostly just to have a good feast and talk with family as much as I would do on Mabon. We are going out to Golden Corral to eat as much as we like.
DeeDee: I celebrate the love and commune with family. They know I’m pagan but even if I was not, they know I don’t agree with celebrating the great atrocity that is the Thanksgiving story.
Solongo: I see Thanksgiving as the time of year when winter starts to feel like it could arrive any day. Any last preparations for winter should be finished soon.
My mother treated Thanksgiving as a way to get together with family. Though not a practicing pagan, she has many pagan tendencies. One thing she liked to do at Thanksgiving was to say thank you to the garden for all it had given us through the year. We would make wreaths out of bittersweet to hang. I still like to use Thanksgiving as a time to think about all the Earth Mother has given me to live.
We will be celebrating Thanksgiving with Morninghawk’s parents. We don’t add anything special or emphasize this holiday for the kids. It is a time to enjoy food and company family. It is not particularly multicultural or multi-religious for us, per se, except for the fact that we see no problem with celebrating this holiday as a way of being with family, who do not celebrate our pagan holidays. We do not put a particular pagan spin on it, as we have already celebrated Samhain/Pomonalia.
I enjoy making different kinds of food to share with my relatives. I especially like trying new spins on traditional recipes, like pumpkin custard instead of pumpkin pie. I try not to overindulge and leftovers are okay.
Do you see this as a religious holiday?
Samantha: I don’t see it as a particularly religious holiday in itself, though there are other holidays near to it on various calendars.
Tamara: My family is a collection of various forms of Christianity but is very accepting of the fact that we are Pagan. No one makes a big deal over anyone’s religion and the emphasis in our gatherings is the communion of and celebration of family. Acceptance of family is important and no one would think of doing or saying anything that would make another family member feel unwanted or out of place. I don’t talk a lot about my own spiritual beliefs but neither do they. I will tell how I enjoyed going to a festival but they also talk about their vacations.
Thanksgiving and the other holidays are a big way we stay in touch and remain knit together. There are no fights or squabbling at a gathering. The only related squabbling I ever saw happened prior to the holiday gathering and no mention was made of it at the gathering. It would have been considered inappropriate to do so. The issue therefore slipped away to be reabsorbed into the aether. That happened a total of two times in the last 30 years that I know of. Religion was never part of either of those two conflicts.
Beth: Quite honestly, I appreciate the fact that I can approach Thanksgiving in a secular manner, and participate in family togetherness without having to do so in the context of a religious holiday. Religiously, I’ve kind of adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy around my family as virtually all of them are Christians; I’m not precisely closeted but I don’t discuss my faith at family events because I know it would just upset or confuse a lot of them (and already has in the past). I celebrate Christmas with them as well and that’s a lot more ethically and spiritually fraught for me in the sense of trying to participate in a tradition that means a lot to my family without being dishonest or disingenuous toward my own beliefs. So I like just being able to focus on the food for Thanksgiving Day since figuring out how to approach Christmas spiritually a month later is already tough enough.
What about the historical aspect? Does the historical nature of the holiday and treatment of Native Americans influence how you feel about Thanksgiving?
Thracie: There is an awareness of the aspect of the invaders’ holiday, that is invading indigenous people’s space, however it [this awareness] is not strictly pagan, as most of my family is McCatholic.
Dee: To some degree, which is why I feel the way I do about it. It is family and fellowship. On a religious level, it is Earth. I wish that people are well, even if it is my worst enemy. With Native Americans, they have family too.
What about Black Friday (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday)? And Black Friday encroaching into Black Thursday, that is Thanksgiving night?
Helga: “Black Friday-Saturday-Sunday” is a weekend traditionally spent with our “family of choice coven-mates” up north. We circle together, talk, laugh, hang-out, and NO SHOPPING is allowed.
Thracie: Black Friday encroaching into Thursday? I don’t approve.
Dee: Black Friday happens the day after Thanksgiving. Even with Thursday night, it hasn’t encroached into Thanksgiving because there are still not a lot of places open. Black Thursday is what some people are calling it and reaction because someone is starting it early. If next year Best Buy was open on Thanksgiving, the same people who complain this year would be there. If they could get a $2000 flat screen television for $900 they would be there. I call Black Friday the “De-Christianization” of the holiday because they’ve taken the spirituality out of it. At the end of the day, it’s about bounty and harvest. How people choose to do this is up to them.
Beth: I’m not too fond of the “Black Friday”/shopping deals aspect of this time of year that seems to be increasing in prominence lately – it strikes me as odd to have a day so focused on consumerism right after a day that’s supposed to be about gratitude for what we already have.
In short, wherever and however you celebrate Thanksgiving, may it be a peaceful wonderful time of bounty, harvest and gratitude. I’m baking pies, a turkey, some corn, green beans and watching lots of movies. For Friday, there’s an all-day Hitchock marathon to enjoy with family and friends. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Feel free to share.